A story of love, loss, and rebirth Spanning the years 1930–2014, Drops of Cerulean chronicles the lives of Ilona, the daughter of a Greek restaurateur, who marries into a prominent Houston family; her son, Cadmus, who becomes a professor and then moves into a retirement home after his husband passes away; and Delphina, an anxiety-ridden woman with a mysterious recurring dream. Ilona and Cadmus have a falling out when Cadmus is a young man, and before they are able to reconcile, Ilona dies. Cadmus is plagued with guilt and feels responsible for the death of his mother. Two worlds collide when, years later, Delphina comes to understand that she had been Ilona, Cadmus’s mother, in her previous life. Well written and engaging, Drops of Cerulean deals with topics such as socioeconomic class, LGBT rights and acceptance, rebirth, and past-life regression. Set in Houston and revolving around the city’s ever-changing skyline, Drops of Cerulean is an amazing debut from a gifted writer.
|Publisher:||Greenleaf Book Group Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Dawn Adams Cole was born and raised in Houston. She received her BA from the University of St. Thomas and her MEd from Harvard University. Dawn wrote Drops of Cerulean while serving as a high school teacher and administrator. She hopes to create thought-provoking literary fiction that challenges readers to live deeply and appreciate interconnectedness. She lives in The Heights with her husband, Burton, and her daughters, Caroline and Elizabeth.
Read an Excerpt
CADMUS ADMITTED HIS NEED FOR assistance, but his concession concluded with a staunch, "Surely that does not encompass every goddamn facet of my life!"
Somewhat obsequious in his treatment of wealthy residents, the director of The Oaks paused to give Clementine a look that implored her assistance. Taking the cue, she placed her hand on her mentor's shoulder with a gentle squeeze.
Cadmus looked down, a flush of embarrassment sweeping across his face. He could not fool Clementine; they knew his profanity was his way of summoning his late husband's resolve. The Dr. Doyle she knew rarely raised his voice or uttered a profane word. And with her gentle correction, he took a deep breath and attempted another plea, one using his normal voice.
"Please allow me to retain my car on your premises. I will only ride as a passenger, with your staff's assistance, of course," he corrected, reflecting his usual pleasant disposition.
"Dr. Doyle, please know it is our intention for you to feel that this is your home, not our premises. But even with that hope, our staff is not allowed to transport residents in their personal vehicles. They are authorized to drive you in The Oaks van. It is a luxury van, one that I believe you will find most comfortable and appealing."
Looking to Clementine, Cadmus whispered, "Please ... I need to keep Robert's car. I will leave it here for you to drive us. Please."
"I believe Dr. Doyle's request is a fair one," Clementine replied confidently with a hint of a dare, the slight bite of her tone reminding Cadmus that she was a MacDougall. "The car will remain here with me as the only driver. I will take the keys. Thank you for helping us ease this transition. He is coming from one of the original George F. Barber houses, so you must understand how difficult it is for him to move from the only home he has known since 1935."
The director, smiling in resignation, extended his pen to Cadmus so he could add his signature to the new resident agreement. Cadmus forcefully shook his head while reaching into his interior breast pocket for his fountain pen, the Doyle Lumber engraving was long gone, as was the company itself, rubbed away from a lifetime of use. He cherished the opportunity to sign his name, knowing his time to do so was dwindling. Taking deliberate, cursive strokes with midnight blue ink, he slowly signed the contract: Cadmus Aleksander Doyle.
* * *
CADMUS DOYLE WAS A PARADOX of sorts, beginning with the name bestowed on him at birth. At first glance, his thick silver hair and surname conjured images of an Irish gentleman, and in less than a blink of an eye, a passerby could imagine him ruddy cheeked, holed up in a pub, animatedly regaling tales to entertain the patrons. People who knew their etymology, however, linked his first name to the founder of Thebes and grandson of Poseidon, the one heralded for delivering the first alphabet to the Greeks. And in the next blink, the observer glimpsed Cadmus' younger self — thick, wavy dark hair that complimented his full, dark brown eyes, a striking Greek gentleman whose elegance dwarfed his Irish surname. Two strong names — a juxtaposition that highlighted the opposing forces in his life, although his connection to his mother always prevailed.
Cadmus' third-floor room location gave away his condition. Third-floor residents suffered from varying forms of dementia, ranging from those in the early stages to others who were confined to their rooms, where loss of speech and movement rendered them virtually helpless, staring with hollowed pupils that searched for evidence that they were part of something greater than themselves. Cadmus knew he would eventually live in the west wing of skilled nursing, and with this understanding came a flood of contradictory emotions. He desperately wanted to retain his intellect and take solace in words, his faithful companion since he had been a child, yet he welcomed the final chapter that he hoped would unite him with his mother — although his predilection for Buddhism prevented him from fully vesting in the idea that he would see her as he had in this lifetime. Fifty-one years had passed since her death, but his advancing age only intensified his longing for her, an amalgam of love and guilt.
His first day at The Oaks, with Clementine assisting with the room setup, lent itself to the narrative of an ordinary, lonely widower adjusting to life in a new residence with a granddaughter by his side. No one knew that Cadmus, estranged from his extended family, relied on a former graduate student he once advised to help him come to terms with his growing medical needs, including the fact that he could no longer live alone. Clementine knew his story, and she knew when he asked her to adjust the framed photograph of the beautiful woman standing on Main Street in front of the University of Houston Downtown, formerly known as the Merchants and Manufacturers Building, that he was admiring his mother, the only person in his family who accepted that he had kissed a man when he was eighteen.
Clementine sorted through the last pile of books, setting aside the few that belonged on his nightstand and the others that would rest on the bookshelves. She paused at his tattered edition of E. E. Cummings poetry, knowing its rightful place was at the top of a short stack that fed his nightly ritual, his caressing of the yellowed, thin pages as much a part of the spiritual commune as the actual words, the most loved pages first showing wear when his mother marked them years ago when it rested at her own bedside.
A photograph fell from the book as she set it aside. Landing facedown, she could see the year 1940 written on the back. She bent down to pick up the photograph and turned it over to reveal a black-and-white print of Cadmus as a young boy seated atop his father's desk. Patrick's hand rested on his son's to guide the rotation of a compass.
"Wondering how we could be related?" Cadmus asked before offering a rueful chuckle as he entered the room.
"No, actually, I can see the resemblance. It's just that I don't remember ever seeing this one, which surprises me."
"I keep that one close to me."
Clementine raised the photograph to eye level, holding it up to the sunlight shining through the east window. After a few blinks, she commented, "You have his dimples."
She met his eyes with a tender smile, uncovering another layer of the mentor she thought she knew so well.
"But I don't use them as often as he did. He was an outgoing one, my father."
"Do you want me to frame this for you?"
Cadmus shook his head and turned back toward his bedroom.
"Dr. Doyle?" Clementine called, taking a few steps forward before handing the photograph to him.
Cadmus reached for it, his gaze falling on his wrinkled hand before moving to the idyllic image of father and son. He appreciated Clementine's tranquil nature, her cool blue eyes patient for a response, something she continued to wait for as he spoke less and less often.
"I am afraid to lose it all," Cadmus replied, turning around and continuing to his bedroom. "My memories are all I've had, all I've had for most of my life."
When he passed the threshold, he closed the door, thinking back to one of the handful of memories he held of Patrick, a rare occasion when his father's face was devoid of a smile. Cadmus remembered him gazing out the window facing The Boulevard, his flamboyant demeanor uncharacteristically subdued and reflective. He remembered peeking around the corner in the hallway, admiring his father's light skin tone and sandy hair. Even as a toddler, Cadmus intuitively felt different, something apart from his Greek features. He did not long to run, play tag, and shoot as his cousins. He did not long to command audiences with hearty laughter and drink in hand as his father. Cadmus longed to be a Doyle rather than the observant, reticent soul he already knew he was.
As he adjusted his weight to the other foot, the floor creaked, breaking his father from his thoughts and Cadmus from the study of his father. His father turned to him, paused, and offered a sympathetic smile that embarrassed Cadmus, their difference palpable and unspoken. His father walked across the hall and knelt beside him.
"Let's go for a walk in the garden," he whispered as he kissed Cadmus on the forehead.CHAPTER 2
ILONA CAREFULLY WROTE HER NAME at the top of her essay, taking extra care to proportion the loops of each cursive letter. Her nose tingled as she completed the date, May 14, 1930. Seventeen days until graduation. She was on borrowed time when it came to writing her name on lined school papers.
She held on to her work, scrutinizing her essay on John Keats. Her face flushed when reading his words intertwined with hers, confirming her thought that she really was a good student. After so much time spent dismissing compliments from teachers, she rationalized that her hard work was what garnered their adulation. It was her work ethic and intelligence in tandem that poised her as a worthy candidate for the teaching profession. It pained her that teacher's college was not an option.
Studying the classroom, Ilona embedded detail to memory. The wooden desks, so new only a few years ago, had softened, as if malleable from student caresses and bumps. She enjoyed sitting at her desk, which was a far cry from her usual position behind the counter at the café. While some kids nervously tapped the desk edge with a pencil while waiting for the teacher or even used the writing surface to raise themselves higher as they yelled across the room, Ilona sat in reverence, palms resting on the cool, dark surface. The desk did not constrain her. It was the vehicle that removed her from her everyday life.
"Ilona, reading es not bad thing, you know? Look the customers ... smile. Head no belong book. It belong looking café with lovely face," her father "baba" said while removing the books she stashed under the counters, dog-eared novels stained with determination, sugar, and grease.
Students rushed to Miss Baker's desk at the sound of the bell, anxious to hand over their essays, one step closer to commencement. Springtime welcomed a flurry of engagements, many paths already chosen. It did not take long for the chatter to fill with wedding talk as the girls spilled into the hallway.
"Always the last to turn in, but the one I prefer to read first," Miss Baker said with a smile. "Have you given any more thought to talking to your father about teaching?"
Ilona shook her head. "After the new restaurant opens, after things get more settled, perhaps then will I speak to my father."
"A beautiful girl like you, Miss Ilona, will be married to a handsome Greek gentleman by that time," Miss Baker winked, swiping the essay from Ilona's hands.
Ilona nodded, offering a weak smile as she headed into the hallway to her locker. She thought about her baba, who was in the process of opening a second restaurant downtown, a bold move for the family in light of growing fears that the full devastation of the economy would soon reach Houston's doors, a fear many Houstonians continued to push to the recesses of their minds. Ilona would assume the role on Franklin Street that her mama played on Lawndale Street: greeter and cashier. Thoughts of wanting more flooded Ilona with equal doses of frustration and shame, seeing that the depression was ravaging so many other parts of the country.
"Your cousins in New York came home to loaf of bread! And seven in family!" her mama cried, shaking her head as she read the letter, a wrinkled scrap of paper revealing that they hoped to make it to Houston soon.
"Eucharistia. Be thankful," served as the stock response to most requests, and Ilona floundered to offer another possibility. Her sister, about to give birth to the family's first grandchild, was in no position to work at the restaurant, but Ilona surmised that Uncle Demetrius' sons could easily help. She could live with her family and even contribute her teaching salary, but she could not muster the courage to make the suggestion. And committing to teaching meant she was not committing to marrying, a thought that would leave her parents baffled.
The popular blondes huddled together near Ilona's locker with lowered heads. Millie, the pack's leader, held her proud head high as she posed her left hand midwaist.
"Excuse me," Ilona whispered, trying to nudge her way to her locker.
"Want to see my ring?" Millie called to Ilona over the heads of her friends.
Although Ilona did not know for certain, she had a hunch as to why Millie, a girl who had never spoken a word to her, now wanted to engage her in conversation. As shy as she was to admit it, Ilona knew that Millie's fiancé, Jody, was sweet on her. Seated one row over and two seats behind Ilona in Miss Baker's class, she frequently caught him staring. She recalled a recent poetry exam when she found her head nodding to a poem's cadence as she read it silently in her head. She giggled when she saw that Jody noticed it, too, and their gazes locked for a moment as a smile broke over his face. He chuckled, prompting Millie's attention from the far side of the room. Ilona knew he watched her out of the corner of his eye when she sharpened her pencil, and even though she was not attracted to him, his attention left her stomach in flutters.
Ilona did not believe she was beautiful, but she knew she had something, because she had heard Uncle Demetrius warn her baba when he did not think anyone could hear.
"Ilona es very pretty girl, Nikolas. Will be stunning woman ... waiting come out shell. We need keep eye when she work downtown, you know. More Greek men downtown."
At Milby High School, however, Ilona was safely nestled in her shell. She played the role of the quiet soul, a diligent student and dutiful daughter. Her handful of school friends were just that, only casual friends at school. They sat together at lunch and supported one another, shoulder-to-shoulder, in an illusory stride down the hall. Ilona's group lived side-by-side in parallel relationships, unlike the intertwined, gossipy nature of the other social circles.
Ilona looked down at Millie's hand, tilting her head back as it neared her face.
"Yes ... it is beautiful," Ilona stammered, recognizing it as the one she had seen in the Sears and Roebuck catalog a few months ago, sparkling chips set on a thin, gold band. Millie scored the engagement, but Ilona felt sorry for her, knowing that Millie had probably not scored his heart. "Congratulations."
"Of course, you don't get too excited about marrying, do you? I mean, your type arranges things like that, right?" Millie questioned, cocking her head to the side.
Quiet now, the other girls turned toward Ilona in anticipation. Other than formal responses in class, she rarely spoke.
Ilona's mind drifted to the café, to the way her baba approached her from behind when a respectable Greek family with an eligible son walked through the door. He would give her shoulders a squeeze before waving his right hand in the air. "Come, come meet my lovely daughter. Top of class at Milby!"
The sons were not always in tow. They did not need to be, since parents made the call on whether a formal introduction would follow. She wanted to fall in love and marry, but she regarded Greek men more as brothers than romantic interests. She could see her entire life before her: Marry a Greek man at the Greek Orthodox Church, and bring the next generation into the family business.
Ilona lowered her gaze, but her head remained high. She suspended her paralysis long enough to reply, "Perhaps not for me," in a tone bolder than intended, as she lifted her expressive eyes. Ilona did not intend for her words to provoke her, but they did. Millie's eyes widened, and Ilona realized that her response appeared a challenge.
Millie gave her one healthy nod backward while teasing, "Good luck with that!" as the coterie burst into giggles at Ilona's hope that things would be different for her. She opened her locker to trade her English book for history, and with a gentle nudge to the locker door, she hastened onto Broadway Street.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Drops of Cerulean"
Copyright © 2019 Dawn Cole.
Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Rich in language and character driven, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this historical fiction book (twice). The author gently opens the possibility of reincarnation and whether our actions in one lifetime transcend into the next. The book is broken into 2 parts and is nicely accented with months and years throughout all passages. Admittedly, I was initially put-off by the departure of certain key characters during Part 1 of the book, but upon reflection I gathered my reaction was a nod to the author for creating such a feeling in a reader! When I reread the book a second time, I was able to enjoy Part 2 of the book much more fully and appreciate it for what it was to the story as a whole (and focus less on the characters in Part 1). The City of Houston plays nice scenery to the story and the author does a great job of allowing the reader to appreciate how the city was burgeoning as early as the 1930s to present day.