On a spring morning in early May, Diane wakes up to find her beautiful 16-year old daughter, Callie, lying dead on the floor of her bedroom. The police find a suicide note in Callie's jewelry chest and Diane's whole world, as she had previously known it, falls apart.
In the afterlife, Callie meets her great grandma, Ellie, who tells her that she's in a part of heaven called Summer Wind and can never return home again. She wrestles with her abrupt and impulsive decision to take her own life and witnesses the impact that this event has on all who love her.
Diane begins a desperate search for answers by tearing apart Callie's bedroom looking for anything that might tell her what drove her daughter to suicide. She visits Joy, a spiritual healer, who tells her that she must learn to seek the gift in her experiences rather than remaining addicted to her guilt and pain. Diane struggles with letting go of the daughter she once knew and all her hopes and dreams for the future.
Desperate to reassure her mother that she's okay, Callie attempts to communicate with her from beyond the veil. They both begin a heart-wrenching journey to find one another once again.
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Diane — Nightmare
The morning my daughter died, I woke and sat bolt upright in bed, my heart racing, my breath coming in ragged gasps. In my dream, dark spirits were chasing Callie. Thin, black, and waiflike, they surrounded her, tearing at her clothing, mocking her as she struggled to pull herself free. I tried to fight them, but my fingers swept through them as if they were vapor. I could only watch as Callie suddenly jerked herself from their grasp, her feet pounding the ground, her arms pumping as she sprinted away, her long blonde hair within a breath of their reach. I could only watch as they drew closer, could only will her — Run, my baby girl, run. Lately, it seemed, we were all moving through water.
Across the bedroom, sunlight was filtering through the blinds, casting shadows on the bed. Outside, birds were calling in the warm spring morning, and a soft breeze swayed the curtains toward me as I looked out the window at the shoreline of the lake across the street. It was only a dream. Casting off the covers, I rubbed the heaviness from my eyes and padded barefoot to the closet, wondering what to wear. Like all parents, I had beat the morning routine into submission, finessed it into a precise science. My eyes half open, my fingers fumbled through the racks of clothing with a blind efficiency — Anthony had a make-up math exam before school today — and landed on a short brown dress patterned with large pink lilies, which I slipped off the hanger and tugged over my head. It was one of Tom's favorites, and I knew he would be downstairs already, making coffee, laying slices of bacon in a hot pan, and mixing some eggs in a bowl. It may not have worked out with Callie and Anthony's father, but in Tom I'd truly found a man I knew I could spend the rest of my days with.
I was halfway down the hall when I noticed the light coming from Callie's bedroom. Ah, to be a teenager again, with no regard for things like electric bills. I swore I spent half my life following these kids around, shutting off lights in their wake. "Callie!" I shouted. "Time to get up!"
I cocked an ear as I sailed by, waiting for the familiar groan. Callie had become crankier and more withdrawn this year — at times downright nasty. Sometimes I couldn't help but think there must be something I'd done wrong. In these moments, I vowed to try harder. I turned and made my way toward my eldest's closed door. Callie had gotten into trouble again yesterday, skipping school, coming home drunk from an afternoon party by the lake. We'd fought, but Callie and I were always fighting these days. I switched tacks, raising my hand to knock softly.
"Cal?" Silence. "Come on, honey. Are you up? I don't want to nag you ..." I listened intently for a moment, then tried the door. At least she hadn't locked herself in. Grasping the cool knob, I turned it slowly, waiting for an exasperated, "OK, OK, Mom!"
At first I couldn't make sense of what I was seeing.
Wearing only a red-and-white ribbed T-shirt and a red lace thong, Callie was lying on her back on the floor, legs stretched out straight, hands clenched in tight fists at her sides. Her blonde hair lay tangled around a face as pale as porcelain. Her eyes were wide open, staring at the ceiling, eyebrows arched, and her lips were a dark purple-blue.
"Oh, my God! Callie, wake up! What happened?" All sense left me as I fell to the carpet to pull her into my arms. "Tom!" I screamed, rocking her, shaking her.
I frantically checked for breathing and a pulse. Nothing. It was her face that frightened me most. Frozen in time was an expression of absolute wonder and amazement. I'd never seen a look like that before. She looked as though the gates of heaven had opened up and ushered her inside.
Tom rushed into the room, my son, Anthony, following close behind.
"Don't let Anthony in here!" I shouted frantically, waving my arms. "I think Callie's dead. Call 9-1-1."
I could vaguely hear Tom as he spoke to the emergency operator, saying something about a dead little girl.
"Diane!" His fingers gripped my shoulder to shake me out of my shock. "She wants to know if anyone can do CPR."
CPR! Tom was trying to startle me into action. Cradling my daughter, I was nothing but a mother. I somehow completely forgot that I was a registered nurse. I shook myself and lay her back down on the floor, rose to my knees, and placed my hands at the center of her chest, just above her breastbone. The danger with young kids is cracking their ribs. I pressed, one two three four five. I closed her perfect nose between my fingers, tilted her head back, breathed once, twice. Again and again, until the operator suggested that Tom help me. I tried to show him how to perform chest compressions, but the clinician in me knew he was not compressing Callie's chest deeply enough.
"I'm afraid I'll hurt her."
"Goddamn it, Tom! Right now, a fractured rib would be the least of her problems!"
There was a loud knocking at the front door. "Anthony, go answer the door!" I yelled. An instant later, the paramedics rushed into the bedroom.
"I'm a nurse," I called to them. "I can help."
"No, ma'am," the man with the emergency kit responded. "You'd be best over there, if you don't mind."
I stood against the purple wall of Callie's bedroom, shivering uncontrollably and watching them try to resuscitate my only daughter. After a long moment, I felt Anthony come up beside me.
"Should I call Papa?"
"Yes," I sighed, pressing him to me. "Go, call Papa."
I watched as the paramedics gave Callie injections of epinephrine and attached portable EKG electrodes to her chest. They shocked Callie's heart. I watched the monitor with ferocity, willing the lines to spike, ordering them to come to life. Her body flounced but there was no response. I'd seen that flat line so many times. Sadly, it had never meant so much to me.
Anthony carried the phone into the room. "Mom, he wants to talk to you."
I took the phone and murmured into it, saying the words I would repeat over and over again, my eyes still glued to my lifeless child. For years afterward, the events of that day would remain burned into my memory like a red-hot brand seared onto bare skin.
"I found Callie lying unresponsive on the floor of her bedroom."
"What do you mean she's unresponsive?"
I described her appearance. "I started CPR. The paramedics are here, but there's no response, Dwayne, only a flat line." He knew what I meant; after all, we'd met in nursing school. He seemed unnaturally calm. "I knew something like this was going to happen. I'm leaving work now. I'll meet you at the hospital."
The police arrived as the paramedics rushed Callie to the waiting ambulance. Sirens blaring, they took off toward the hospital. The police gently escorted me, Tom, and Anthony out of Callie's bedroom so they could begin their investigation. Upstairs, I went into the bathroom, shut the door, and brushed my teeth over and over again. I had to get the taste of her lips on mine out of my mouth. I'd counseled patients on grief. I told them, "Grief makes you do the damnedest things, and that's OK." I stood there, numb and in shock, gazing in the mirror at my aging face. My auburn hair, pulled into a sloppy knot at the nape of my neck with a black scrunchie. An older version of the woman Callie would never become. I massaged the furrowed lines across my forehead. My hazel eyes seemed sunken into my face between thick, arched eyebrows and the dark circles that rimmed my lower lashes. I could see the crow's-feet starting to form at the corners of my eyes and the creases that etched the sides of my lips into a permanent frown. I pinched my cheeks to try to bring some color back into them and turned away from the mirror. In my heart, I hoped for some sort of miracle. The EMTs would bring her back on the way to the hospital. The doctors would save her. But the professional in me knew that this was not possible.
Callie was dead when I walked into her bedroom.
Callie — Summer Wind
I can't remember how long I lay there in the dark. After a while, I felt myself being lifted up, I felt myself twirling around and around, faster and faster. I knew I had one hell of a case of the spins. Sometimes, when I know I've really overdone it, I try to pretend me and Anthony are little again. We're taking turns climbing into Papa's leather recliner. I sit and Anthony takes a deep breath, gathering all of his puny strength to spin me around and around. We'd laugh and laugh.
I smiled in my half-sleep. Somewhere on the other side of my closed lids, I registered a faint humming noise that grew louder and louder. I must have gotten myself really fucked up this time.
What the hell —
A moment later, I was being jerked up into a dark, black tunnel that seemed like a tornado spinning around and around me. Images flashed at a sickening pace. Me playing "Captain and the Pirate" with Mama and Anthony in the swimming pool of our old house in California. Me climbing the fence in Tennessee, grabbing the saddle with one hand and the reins in the other, swinging one leg over Red's back and pulling myself astride. Me laughing on the inner tube behind Papa's jet boat, begging him to go faster and faster as I flew on top of the water.
The sky above the tunnel became brighter and brighter, and suddenly I burst into the light, squinting against the brightness.
Where the hell was I?
I twisted around to find I was in a vast, emerald-green meadow strewn with purple wildflowers. I sat down, trying to remember what drug I'd just taken. Maybe it was one of those pretty sugar cubes laced with LSD or some of those magic mushrooms. Whatever it was, it looked like I was going to have a pretty good trip.
Ahead of me a stream dazzled with multicolored rocks just below the surface of the water. A pretty white bridge over the stream caught my attention, and as I got up to walk toward it, I spotted a furry little black creature bounding over the bridge toward me. Could that be — no. He was barking and yelping and, as I stepped onto the bridge, he practically leapt into my arms. My heart swelled and my breath caught in my throat as I lifted him. It was my little cocker spaniel, Boo! But he'd died when I was about six years old, just before we moved from California to Tennessee. I felt his cold, wet nose nuzzling my neck as his whole body wagged. "Oh, Boo," I said, "It's so good to see you." I held him to my chest, his curly black fur soft and reassuring. "Where are we, Boo? What's happening to me?"
My face was buried in Boo's fur when I heard a soft but unmistakable nicker, causing my ears to prick up of their own volition. Red?
I snapped my head up to see him standing at the other end of the bridge, his smooth mahogany coat glistening in the sun. Shaking my head in disbelief, I knelt to put Boo down and he scampered ahead as if leading the way. Across the bridge, Red pawed the ground impatiently with his hoof. He gave a soft whinny of pleasure as I reached him, and, putting my arms around his neck, I drank in his warm scent.
"Oh, Red, I've missed you so much," I whispered, salty tears flowing down my face and mingling with his mane. Suddenly I felt his body shift, and as he knelt down on one foreleg, I understood he wanted me to climb onto his back. Taking Boo under one arm and grasping a piece of mane in the other, I pulled myself astride and looked around me. The meadow was surrounded by a huge forest of oak, fir, and maple trees. In the bright afternoon sunshine, puffy white clouds scuttled across an azure sky on a gentle breeze. Ahead of me, several lanes led into the woods, and Red turned toward a sunlit path. I relaxed against his body and let the soft clip-clop of his hooves carry me into the forest.
I was so tired that the gentle rocking of his hind legs nearly put me to sleep, but after some time I noticed the lane was finally emerging from the woods. Squinting, I could see a pretty, two-story pink-and-white house with a pink Corvette convertible in the driveway by the front yard. It looked exactly like my old Barbie doll playhouse! From the pink shingled roof and hot-pink front door to the large bubble-gum-pink windows framed with lavender curtains, it was identical in every way, only life-size, which made me a little nauseous. Of course, pink had been my favorite color when I was little, but these days I preferred black. Multicolored flowers nestled in rectangular boxes seemed to pulsate with color as I walked up the front steps. I'd tripped out before, but I couldn't ever remember having such crazy visuals. Suddenly I'd had enough. I wanted out of this whacked-out dreamscape. I mean, I hadn't played with Barbies since I was six!
I pushed the unlocked door open tentatively. "Hello?"
There didn't seem to be anyone home. I stepped into a foyer covered in eggplant-purple tile where sparkling glass teardrops hung from an ornate brass chandelier. To the right of the foyer sat a cozy-looking parlor where a chunky vase filled with red roses was perched on a glass-topped table in the center of the room. Ahead of me was a staircase covered in pale pink carpet. Climbing the stairs, I found my way to a bedroom on the left and was instantly drawn to its pretty canopy bed with pink-and-white-striped sheets and a white lace comforter with pink rosebuds on it. The last of the afternoon sunlight streamed through a nearby window, and the room felt warm and safe.
Maybe if I just lie down, I'll sleep this off and I'll wake up back home. I was beginning to feel a little like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Turning over on the soft bed, I was surprised to discover that afternoon had turned to evening. Outside, I could see twinkling stars and the shining sliver of a crescent moon. I let my tired body sink into the mattress as Boo hopped up on the bed and turned in circles until he felt he'd made an adequate nest among the blankets at the crook of my knees. As my eyelids began to drop, I let out a sigh I hadn't known I was holding in, and I drifted into sleep.
The three of us were silent in the car on the way to the hospital. Glancing over at Tom, I could see his face etched with concern. He reached one hand to my knee, keeping the other on the steering wheel.
"You worried about Dwayne?"
"Yes," I whispered. "How on earth can I explain this?" As we pulled up to the emergency room door, I could already see Dwayne pacing outside, a lit cigarette pressed between his lips. He was my second husband and often had dramatic mood swings. I never knew whether he was going to be kind and understanding or angry and accusatory, especially where the children were concerned. I took a deep breath and climbed out of the car to embrace him.
"I met the ambulance when it pulled up here. The doctors only worked on her for a few minutes and then ended the code. Jesus, Diane. What happened?"
"I don't know." I clasped and unclasped my fingers, trying to keep them from shaking. "Callie came home at noon yesterday from school. She'd burned her finger in cooking class. Tom was working from home so he gave her some Tylenol and antibiotic ointment and bandaged her finger. She was supposed to go back to school — instead she called some friends and went to a party down by the lake. She called me at about five and told me she was with Megan, who had to take her sister to the dentist to have two of her wisdom teeth pulled. Callie said she was helping Megan take care of her sister. When she came home with Megan at about seven, she stumbled up the steps to the back porch. I knew she was drunk, and I was so stupid. I was thinking, 'How did she get drunk at the dentist's office?' She fell into bed and I asked her, 'Callie, have you been drinking?' She didn't answer me; she just turned her head away and rolled toward the wall." Tears were coming now, and I fought to contain them, fought to keep my voice level enough to talk.
"Listen," Tom interjected, coming over from having parked the car, with Anthony in tow. "Why don't we go inside and sit down?"
"Good idea," Dwayne replied. We wandered in through the emergency room doors to find the ER mercifully quiet — there were only a few patients sitting in plastic chairs waiting to see a doctor, and most of the staff were congregated at the nurse's station, talking. Tom went over to let them know we'd arrived while Dwayne, Anthony, and I settled in a private corner of the waiting room.
"So what happened next?" Dwayne asked, leaning toward me. "After you saw what kind of state she was in?"
I leveled my gaze at him, daring him to challenge me.
"I left her. There was no point arguing with someone in her condition. Megan left a little while later. I saw her sneaking down the back steps. When I went back into Callie's room, she was asleep. I took her purse to the kitchen and emptied it onto the kitchen table, looking for drugs, but I didn't find any. I kept her cell phone. She'd already had her car and her driver's license taken away, so the only thing left was the phone. I went back into her room and put her purse on the floor and lifted Ruffy onto her bed."
Excerpted from "The Dreaming Road"
Copyright © 2018 Elizabeth Moore.
Excerpted by permission of Turning Stone 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.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Diane — Nightmare,
Chapter 2: Callie — Summer Wind,
Chapter 3: Diane — Requiem,
Chapter 4: Callie — The Meeting,
Chapter 5: Callie — What Really Happened,
Chapter 6: Callie — She's Not Gone,
Chapter 7: Diane — Refuge,
Chapter 8: Callie — The Great Escape,
Chapter 9: Diane — Searching for Callie,
Chapter 10: Diane — The Medium's Message,
Chapter 11: Callie — Hell of a Good Time in Heaven,
Chapter 12: Diane — Addicted to Pain,
Chapter 13: Diane — Two Wolves,
Chapter 14: Diane — The Wake-up Call,
Chapter 15: Callie — The Reluctant Angel,
Chapter 16: Diane — Struggling to Let Go,
Chapter 17: Callie — Graveyard Love,
Chapter 18: Diane — Holding You in My Spirit Heart,
Chapter 19: Diane — The Angel Quest,
Chapter 20: Diane — I'll Always Be with You,
Chapter 21: Callie — Mama's Guardian Angel,
Chapter 22: Callie — The Confrontation,
Chapter 23: Diane — The Eye of the Storm,
Chapter 24: Diane — Going Back in Time,
Chapter 25: Diane — Understanding the Gift,
Chapter 26: Diane — Climbing the Glass Mountain,
Chapter 27: Diane — Free Will and Destiny,
Chapter 28: Diane — Living in Two Worlds,
Chapter 29: Diane — Finding the Joy in Me,
Chapter 30: Callie — The Attitude Adjustment,
Chapter 31: Callie — Our Thoughts Create Our Reality,
Chapter 32: Callie — The Cavern of Creation,
Chapter 33: Diane — The Dolphin's Journey,
Chapter 34: Diane — My Mount Everest,
Chapter 35: Callie — Death Is an Urban Legend,
Epilogue: Diane — Moving On,