The sound was deafening.
Rolling thunder shook the very ground he stood upon
and then collapsed, sending him flying.
Clouds of smoke and debris shrouded him for a time, and then there he was,
as if the clouds parted and the very light of heaven shone upon him.
He was dead.
Screaming demons of war fought with the angels of peace for his soul,
clawing and pulling at him.
Elise Boulanger of Baton Rouge Louisiana awakens from a hellish and vivid dream-Staff Sergeant Barton Barre is dead! He is blown up on the battlefield somewhere in Europe. She believes her beloved pen-pal is lost to her, any chance of further friendship or romance is gone. For a time, she silently suffers the reoccurring nightmares, reluctant to confess to her family that the dreams could be real. On the night of her debutante ball, Elise discovers the truth. She then bravely continues her life wearing the cloak of jeu d'esprit and a fake smile as if nothing has happened.
In this generational saga, families and friends re-unite in the final days of World War II and beyond. This story captures the hearts of a courageous reluctant hero and a resilient lovely teen, transforming them while they both fatefully seek to attain their dreams.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.38(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Road Home
Book Three of Sparrow Wars in the Garden of Bliss: A La Barre Family Saga
By C.A. Portnellus
iUniverseCopyright © 2015 C.A. Portnellus
All rights reserved.
Guardian Angels Keep Thee
The sound was deafening. Rolling thunder shook the very ground he stood upon and then collapsed, sending him flying. Clouds of smoke and debris shrouded him for a time, and then there he was, as if the clouds parted and the very light of heaven shone upon him.
He was dead.
Screaming demons of war fought with the angels of peace for his soul, clawing and pulling at him.
Formavit igitur Dominus Deus hominem de limo terræ, et inspiravit in faciem ejus spiuraculum vitæ, et factus est homo in animam viventem.
Suddenly, he breathed in life again.
The ebony-scaled demons cursed the light and Giver of Life and then slithered away to claim other souls.
* * *
Blessed be the heroes who die in honorable duty for their country. Blessed be the heroes ... Saint Adrian of Nicomedia, pray for their souls ... Saint George, pray for us in the hour of our need ... Give us solace for our tears.
"No! No! Barton!"
Elise rose up, screaming. Tears streaked down her cheeks, heartrending sobs filled her throat, and she fell back upon her bed, clutching her pillow. All of a sudden, her bedroom door was thrown open. She screamed again. The light in the hallway revealed her father.
"Elise! What happened?"
"Oh, Daddy!" Elise began to rise from her bed, but Édouard swiftly came and sat on it.
He hugged her close. Édouard petted her head, smoothing back the sweat-damp bangs from her face and then used his hankie, wiping her tears. "What is wrong? Are you ill?'
"Non. J'ai un cauchemar. Je suis stupide," she said brokenly.
"Is she all right?" The worried voice of Beatrice asked from the door.
"I've got her. Just a bad dream is all, Maman. Go back to bed, ma chérie."
"Where is Chérie?" Elise asked all of a sudden and then pulled away to look about the dark room, afraid again.
They heard a skittering noise, and the little poodle poked her tiny nose out from under the bed ruffle.
Beatrice chuckled. "Well, you frightened everyone it seems." She scooped up the black teacup poodle, dropping her in Elise's arms. She tugged the coverlet and linens back in place. "What were you dreaming? Your bed is a mess. Were you fighting off dragons again?"
Elise let out a shattered sigh. "No ... it is probably nothing."
Édouard kissed her brow and patted her cheek. "Dreams cannot hurt you.
It is all silliness of the mind. You rest easy, little love. The angels will sing and kiss you to sleep." He glanced at her alarm clock. Smiling, he added, "The night is still young. It is not even two yet. Dormir Bébé." He stood and pressed past Beatrice. "Let her sleep now. Come back to bed, love."
Beatrice hovered for a moment. "Are you sure you are fine now?"
Elise nodded and curled up with her pet. "Oui Maman."
Beatrice smiled and began to close the door. "Fait un beau rêve, chacque temps."
Elise heard the words but felt they were odd and like déjà vu. Yes, she needed to make a beautiful dream this time. She lay for a moment, trying to still her heart and slow her mind to sleep again.
She could still see him ... lying in the mud, the mist curling about his singed body.
She wondered at the Latin verse and scrambled out of bed to retrieve her Bible. Switching on the lamp, she quickly wrote the words on paper. She felt she might never forget them; they were already ingrained in her heart and mind. She translated the words and then found them in Genesis 2:7, when God the Creator breathed life into Adam.
"The Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul." She read aloud then sniffled tearfully. "Oh God, please don't let him be dead." She turned off the light and lay again in bed. Fearing the darkness, she hugged her Bible close.
This time, she did pray to the patron saints of soldiers until the words ran out and perhaps the angels kissed her to sleep.
* * *
Baton Rouge, Louisiana Tuesday, April 17, 1945
That morning Elise wore purple shadows under her eyes and a haunted look as she hunched over her farina. She idly stirred the warm cereal and sighed heavily.
"Okay Elise, what did you do wrong now?" Elaine's navy-blue eyes rolled as she watched her sister sink lower into the chair. She added, "Or maybe I should say, why is Miss Perfect in the dumps today? Hm?" She sipped her tea and glanced around at her parents, then hissed at her "So are you giving me the silent treatment? What did I do or say now?" she sighed with impatience.
Elise shrugged. "Nothing."
Frowning, Elaine wiped her mouth on the napkin, took up her breakfast dishes and left the table. She dumped them in the sink and spun around. "Hey, Goose Girl! I know what's got you down! You still don't have a date for the Rose Ball yet, do you?"
Tossing back her long blond curls, Elaine took her sack lunch and headed for the swinging door, "You better hurry before all the best boys are gone."
"Hush!" Beatrice shook her head at Elaine. "Leave her be. Elise had a bad dream last night." She reached a hand to stroke Elise's cheek, "Or maybe you have menstrual cramps today?" she queried with concern.
Elaine laughed as she lounged against the wall and simpered, "O Pauvre Elise ..."
Elise's dark eyes flared and she shook back her unruly ebony curls. "Mother!
Stop embarrassing me!" She pouted. Then cast a look at her father as he voraciously ate a pair of poached eggs and brioche in fast bites, his face ruddy with embarrassment too.
"Yes, please. I don't need to be privy to the feminine ailment every time you swoon, do I?" Édouard glanced at the kitchen clock, "Good Lord! Is it that late already? Come on girls hurry up, no more chatter or you will be late for school." He dashed back the last of his coffee, slid back from the table, brushed off crumbs from his suit and kissed his wife. "Merci ma coeur ... à bien tôt."
Elaine followed him out already complaining about taking the bus to the university and begging for a ride this morning.
Beatrice began to scrape the plates and run the hot dishwater. She took away Édouard's tableware and asked, "How much longer are you going to play with your food, Elise?" She made a noise of dismay, "You look terrible this morning. I do hope you were planning on combing your hair before school. And your blouse is wrinkled." She shook her head, "I do not approve of all the theatrics, especially since you refused to talk about your nightmare or whatever your problem is this morning. You kept us awake last night, bumbling about in your room."
Elise glowered at her mother taking in the frowsy-looking blonde hair and her spotted apron — she didn't look so chipper and sharp either.
"Mother! Just leave it will you? I am fine." She dropped her spoon in the cereal and scooted back her chair, but Beatrice grabbed up the bowl before she could.
"You have not been eating much lately. You look like a twig." She handed Elise her lunch sack. "Be sure you eat all of this. I put in an extra apple for you."
"Merci, mais je suis bien." Elise stepped to her mother, hugged her and then left the kitchen. She trod up the stairs to her bedroom. With a glance at her clock, she knew there was not much time left or she would miss the bus and be late for home room.
Grabbing up her sweater and book bag, Elise kissed Chérie on her little puffball head and dashed away, then ran back to snatch her flute case and music bag and rumbled down the stairs, slamming the front door.
* * *
As she hurried along in the misty morning, Elise still felt the ominous shadows of the nightmare from last night. The ugly black demons gave her the creeps. She wondered at the dream for it seemed so real, very loud and almost painful. But she didn't want to believe it could be true. Was it possible that Barton Barre was dead? She was beginning to wonder, since it had been such a long time between letters from him.
Last year when he went to France his letter had taken months to arrive. She had feared he died during the D-Day operation. His next letter was even longer in coming and she had feared him dead during those months too. But his last two letters had been lovely, nearly poetic and she had been inspired then to begin writing him again. Staff Sergeant Barton Barre had become more than a pen-pal. Elise was sure he was falling in love with her. The dance where they met two summers past was so long ago, that she had nearly forgotten his face, but the words from his letter had stuck in her heart.
If I were to say I love you to anyone, it would be you.
Oh, that letter and the next one had put her on Cloud Nine. But in the months since his last letter, the silence had been worrying.
Now she had the horrible dream of Barton being blown up, it couldn't be true.
Elise crossed herself and kissed her crucifix, asking a fast blessing on him ... as if it would help. She made a plan to go to confession tomorrow before work; there, she would ask Father Luc for the proper prayers to help Barton and light a candle for him.
She shook her head of the muzzy dark cloud, squinted into the hazy sunlight as she rounded the corner onto the main street. The crowded sidewalks and the bustle of downtown Baton Rouge helped to bring her back into the now. She passed by a newsstand glancing at the headlines.
Russians move on Berlin! Hitler soon to be captured! America and Allies Bomb Berlin!
She shuddered at the photos of battle scenes and the demolished city.
She pushed the dream and dear Barton away, hoping that he was protected by the saints and perhaps a guardian angel. Why else would she dream of angels and demons fighting over him? "I pray you are not fighting there in Berlin, Barton."
A block up she caught site of Millie Layton and Winnie Dell, her friends from school. She waved, shouting at them as they were getting on the city bus. She raced up the sidewalk catching the bus just as the driver began to close the door.
The friends crowded onto a seat together and soon Elise forgot about her miserable night and morning.
Winnie was always the garrulous funny one as was Rosalie Conroy who sat behind them. The girls chattered away excited about the upcoming Rose Debutante Ball next month and made plans to go shopping for the 'perfect' dress this weekend.
* * *
The day went by in a blur and in the afternoon, Elise rushed off to her music lesson with Madame Edna Flaubert. She thought she had played fine except that the elderly music teacher irritably ended the lesson early.
Edna peered through her pince-nez at Elise. "C'est tout, Elise." and closed her book on the piano. She sat back on the bench to regard the girl. She removed her eyepiece to wipe a hankie over them then dropped them into the lacy breast pocket of her dress.
"My dear, there is obviously something worrying at you. Your timing is off and you have no heart for the music today. What is wrong?" she asked with concern and a frown.
Elise closed her eyes for a moment and turned away embarrassed, tears stung her eyes. She disassembled her flute putting it in the leather case. "I am sorry Madame. I will do better next time."
Madame Flaubert reached a chubby hand to Elise's, "What is the trouble? Is it school or perhaps a boy? Usually that is the case with you teen girls. Are you in love? The way you look I would say some cad has dropped you."
Elise was quick to respond en Français, "Non! Madame that isn't it at all —" Her brow wrinkled in thought, "Well, it is about a b — boy ... my friend Barton."
"Oh I see, and this Barton he has been unfaithful or perhaps cruel to you? Pfft! Well drop him then! You are too wonderful a girl to have a boy who doesn't properly appreciate you!"
Elise spun about to lock the flute case and cram the music books in her bag to say stiffly, "It isn't like that. My friend is in the US Army ... and," she lost control of her brimming tears and without wanting to confess she wailed, "last night I dreamed he died. He was blown up!"
The teacher stood up and gathered her student to her large bosom. "O ma chérie! C'est terrible!" She cooed, "eh bien" in Elise's ear and patted her back, noting how thin she had become. The teen was growing tall as a cornstalk and stood matching Edna's own impressive height of five-foot eight. "It is only a dream then, un cauchemar, I am sure your friend is fine." She dismissed the dream and worrisome comment.
Elise pulled back and looked her teacher in the eye, "Do you really think so? I feel silly talking about it. Now I feel worse, because I was lousy today and wrecked our lessons. But it felt so real ... I could feel his pain. I have had a headache all day too."
"It is natural to worry for your friend then. I have a grand nephew who is in the Pacific fighting and I worry too. But we must not let that discomfort eat at us. We must be strong and resilient for them and carry on. Yes?" She smiled at Elise as she smoothed the girl's black frowsy bangs from her face. "Write him a letter perhaps. I am sure he is fine."
"Yes, Ma'am, I will." Elise let out a sigh, "Thank you." She impulsively hugged the elder matron, "You are always nice to me, Madame. I just want to do my best for you."
Madame Flaubert patted Elise once more and released her. "You are my star student. It hurts me to see you so upset and without your usual smile or performing poorly." She cheered to see Elise respond with a demure smile. "Now then, I want you to go home, have a nice cup of tea and relax. Then you must practice the Fauré Fantasie twice, concentrating on the second movement and your fingering. And don't rush it — just breathe easy. You should be perfect by the recital next month." She began to usher Elise away from the music room, "I have another student coming and I need a little break before then." She fluffed her lacy ruffled collar on her dress and patted her perfectly coiffed gleaming white hair.
"Oh, yes Anton. I don't know why he still comes for lessons — he is a terrible violinist." Elise commented as she dutifully marched to the door. "His fingers are too fat for the strings. The poor fellow has already broken one violin. Maybe he should switch to a bass or cello."
Tossing her marcel-permed head, Madame opened the front door, "Well it is not up to me to tell him to quit. He loves music and the violin, and even though he is built for football, his heart is all there. I do not like to take his parent's money and keep assuring them he has talent. So I do try to give Anton some confidence and teach him to read the music even if he cannot play it properly. He does have an untrained but stunning basso, so if only I can convince his parents to change Anton over to voice lessons all would be well. I think he would be embarrassed to sit among my elementary students — he is gargantuan compared to them." She shook her head, "O la, it is not my worry. But you, I worry for you. We must find you a wonderful music program for college — that is if you still want to go?"
"I do. But I still dream of going to the Italian Music Conservatory in San Renaldo Italy."
"As do I. Alas, this war in Europe may make that impossible, my dear, so we must search out other options. Perhaps my alma mater, Julliard would do. Yes?" She noted Elise's nod and then patted her cheek. "Now you practice as I suggested. Next week we can spend more time sight-reading. I have some other wonderful piano and flute duets you can choose. With a little practice, we have time to work an extra piece in the recital program. What do you say?"
Elise smiled brightly, "I say you are too good to me. Yes, I would love that. How about something Italian or maybe Mozart? I just love Baroque music."
"Oui! Allez-y, I have mere minutes to take a powder and recover before dear Anton arrives!" Edna rolled her eyes and then chuckled, "I do love my students but really some are more challenging than others! Adieu!" she waved and closed the door on Elise.
Elise ran home with a silent prayer in her heart for Barton Barre's safety.
Excerpted from The Road Home by C.A. Portnellus. Copyright © 2015 C.A. Portnellus. 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
PART I — JEU D'ESPRIT, 1,
1. Guardian Angels Keep Thee, 3,
2. Frivolous, 10,
3. Debutante, 31,
4. As Time Flies, My Heart Dies, 44,
PART II —IN MEDIA S RES — INTER ALIA, 55,
5. Oblivion, 57,
6. Damaged Collateral, 58,
7. Points and No Going Back, 71,
8. Hero—The Return of Barton Barre, 80,
9. Reunited, 159,
10. L'Étranger en la Famille, 190,
PART II — AUD ENTIS FORTUNA JUVAT, 249,
11. A Self-Made Company Man, 251,
12. And We Have The Final Word, 294,
13. Love Amidst The Thorns296,
14. Life Out Of Darkness, 349,
15. Cri du Coeur, 413,
PART IV — FATE IS A TIPSY GYPSY, 421,
16. Bluebells and Rainy Day Promises, 423,
17. A Man's World, 456,
18. Harried By Guilt, 527,
19. Love Comes In A Blue Blanket, 539,
20. Fate — The Thief of Dreams, 553,
21. Darling Mother, 572,
22. Daring Wife, 582,
About The Books And Author, 611,