Caterina Cammino is a lonely, attractive, and stylish thirty-five-year-old woman whose nightly ritual is to go to the beach and drink wine from the bar of her car while watching the sunset. She has never come to terms with a devastating event that happened in 1988: When she was seventeen, she and her best friend Tracy, both in Italy for summer school, had been invited to a party. The girls were drugged, raped and discarded outside by a swimming pool. When Tracy got up to wash off in the water, she drowned accidentally, and Caterina has never forgiven herself for her friend's death. Though time has continued, in her life, relationships and emotional maturity, she is still a seventeen-year-old girl, stuck in that night when she lost her innocence and awoke to a scream.
Tyler Beck is an eighteen-year-old loner who was born to a drug-addicted mother and an emotionally distant father. He is gifted intellectually and has an awareness of a special magic that includes visions, phantasms, and a cord above his right shoulder that other people do not perceive. When his mother dies, the magic disappears, and at age fifteen he decides to kill himself with a heroin overdose. He is rehabilitated with the help of a counselor named Robie, who becomes his first and only friend. After Robie dies in Iraq, however, Beck leaves Robie's funeral, takes another shot of heroin down at the beach, and passes out in the sand.
Their lives collide when Caterina's car accidentally strikes a trashcan that crashes into the semi-conscious Beck. When they both ask aloud for help, the grieving parts of themselves are transported to another dimension called 10-17. Caterina arrives in this dimension as her seventeen-year-old self, Cat, and there she meets Beck, still wearing his pallbearer's suit, whom she nicknames Ty. Once in this new world, set against a backdrop of Italy, they meet a Watcher-Numen named Miranda who tells them that they are in this time-space classroom for learning and healing, even while their lives are continuing and intersecting on Earth, also known as Dimension 10-71. Miranda explains that these dimensions are like a window blind, with the segments of 10-17 and 10-71 being adjacent to each other and nearly touching. Miranda informs Cat and Ty that there are many slats on the blind, including one called Dimension 2-26, an existence much like life on Earth, but without suffering or addiction, and which is populated by humans of a higher vibration. She mentions in passing that it is a place called Thare.
To the eighteen-year-old Ty, the seventeen-year-old Cat from 1988 is a technological alien. Beck is attracted to the mature Caterina, even though he views her as an eccentric woman who relates to life through song lyrics, and who lives in a music-infused, alcohol-soaked silo. After shaky starts in both dimensions, they begin to heal each other and recycle their pain into something positive. While Beck, who has lived in his own solipsistic world for most of his life, readily embraces his love for Caterina, she is conflicted over her feelings for a man half her age. Meanwhile, in Dimension 10-17, as Cat and Ty complete their lesson, they are torn over the choice that Miranda offers to them: To go to the "perfect" world of 2-26 at whatever adult age they wish to be, and leave the Earth and their families behind, or to return wholly to their Earthly, 10-71 selves...
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The Window Blind
By Patricia Colton
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Patricia Colton
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCaterina Cammino pulled into the lot at the beach. Six miles from her childhood home, ten miles from her house, seventeen miles from work, six thousand miles from Italy. It was a secure distance from her life, no chance of an encounter with the familiar strangers. In the City of Angels with too many humans, the beach was a safe haven. She was not only anonymous, she was nearly invisible, like a contrail ribbon fading into the sunset.
Two For The Road Liquor blinked in pink neon, or rather, Two For he Ro or. Caterina couldn't remember a time when all the letters were illuminated. She stepped from the blue Mazda Miata, her dog Meshugganah in a carry case dangling from her shoulder, and began her nightly ritual. As she entered the store, two quick bells signaled her arrival.
The clerk looked up from his paper and smiled. He'd been there for three weeks and hailed her in heavily accented English. "Ah, za blue M&M."
Caterina nodded and walked to the back, her high heels clicking in rhythm to the music blaring statically through the speakers, Beginnings, by Chicago. She perused the aisle and grabbed two bottles of wine, a Cabernet and a Chardonnay, or in her mind, a black and a white.
As she paid, the clerk grinned again. "Za usual for a pretty lady. Your car, za license plate is for za candy you like? Melt in my mouth, not in her hands?"
"Something like that," she replied in a low, raspy monotone. He was nosy and encroaching, but he would be gone in another two weeks. They never stayed. BLU MM. She wondered why she had gotten a vanity plate; maybe it was a way to say, obliquely, "I exist."
Caterina settled Shugga onto the passenger seat and drove to a raised stretch of pavement that provided an elevated view of the shore. She lifted the lid of her lapis blue sports bottle and filled it halfway with Chardonnay. When you weren't ready to go home and drink alone, watching the world silently revolve through the sky was like drinking with an acquaintance across a bar, one who wouldn't bother. As the clouds created a feather bed for the tangerine dream, Caterina started her count. She slept five hours last night. She had walked ten thousand steps today. She'd taken three sips of The Lamade, raising the bottle to her lips once more and swishing the wine around her mouth.
Caterina looked towards the store. The clerk was outside, smoking a cigarette. He waved. She tilted her head and closed one eye. He was gone. She opened both eyes. He reappeared. The parallax. Caterina shifted her gaze back to the refluent water. In, out, ebb, flow. The ocean played its game of hide and seek, catch me if you can, teasingly lapping the sand and then retracting. Did the ocean ever tire of getting nowhere, flinging forward only to fall back? She chugged another swig. The compulsive counting in her head had eased. The sun slid behind the mountain; it was on its way to somewhere else. Shugga moaned in his case.
"You want some air, baby boy?"
The dog crawled onto Caterina's lap and she rubbed him with her right hand. She lit a cigarette and closed her eyes. "In, out, in, out. I can tell what's in, what's out. I'm wide awake. I'm not sleeping," she whispered. She opened her eyes, inhaling and exhaling the smoke, while humming a song she liked as a child. There was a messy smattering of stars emerging from the dome, reminding her of grease splattered on a frying pan. One speck beamed brightly, and she sang to it softly, "If I could be any star up above, I'd want to be the star people wish on for love ..." She drained the cup dry.
Caterina dropped the butt onto the ground, zipped Shugga's case and started the engine, backing up and angling forward, turning toward the exit. Something rolled in front of her, and she swung sharply to the right, ramming into a yellow trash can.
"Shit," she whimpered and got out of the car, teetering in her heels.
The can perched precariously, lightly kissing her front bumper, before falling forward onto the sandy embankment. Shugga barked, the sound echoing through the hollow air. Kicking off her heels, she slid down the slope. She would do the right thing, stop it from running and littering, and then flee. Debris spilled and flew wildly in the sudden wind. The trash can rolled on in the crepuscular half-light, and she saw the word BE in large letters, inscribed in black marker on its side. The receptacle stopped abruptly, colliding with another can that was upright. She paused. Cocooned in the intersecting cans, a man lay in the sand, his suit covered in spillage from the trash. He lifted his head and raised a hand to his neck.
"You awake? Hey, you OK?" Caterina asked as she grabbed the fallen cylinder and set it upright, cautiously keeping her distance from the sprawled figure.
The man sat up and put his face in his hands, his knuckles kneading his eye sockets. His long fair hair was covered in paper.
"Are you alright? Good," she snapped hastily.
Caterina climbed up the incline and stopped at the top, dusting sand off her bare feet and tripping over her discarded shoes. Looking below, she saw the man attempting to stand, supporting himself with one of the trash cans. He fumbled and fell and struggled to get up again. She saw something shiny glinting in the distance. A dark shape approached with a silver cane. She squinted and saw that the cane was a metal detector.
The figure called out to the fallen man. "You need help, Son?"
She heard a soft reply rise with the tide. "Yes. Yes, help me."
Caterina turned away. Two bums on the beach. Bums help each other in their transients' code of brotherhood. They assist each other with spare change, buried treasure by the trash. Recyclable cans and outstretched hands. She brushed her palm over the bumper. Looking across the lot, she saw a skateboard gliding along the pavement, propelled by the wind. She slipped on her heels and walked to it. Riding in the center was a tiny white ceramic butterfly. Why would you need wheels when you have wings, she thought. She held the butterfly in one hand and picked up the skateboard with the other, then wobbled a few feet to another yellow can and dropped the board inside.
As Caterina settled into the car, Shugga let out a soft cry. She patted his case. "It's OK, boy."
Her hands were shaking. She studied the butterfly and then rapidly blinked at her image in the rearview mirror. She looked scared. She looked sad. She thought of a movie she and Poppi had watched long ago about the king of Camelot, his queen, and a knight so pure in spirit he could resurrect the dead. Young Arthur had asked what he could do when he was feeling sad. "Learn something," his teacher, Merlin, replied.
Caterina rolled the butterfly in her hand. "Merlin, make me a hawk. Let me fly away from here," the older, war-weary Arthur had said wistfully, yearning for the simple guilelessness of childhood, when real life included a wizard and magic, and when the remedy for sadness was knowledge. She held the butterfly inches from her face with a thumb and forefinger on each wing.
"But you're no hawk. And you can't fly. You're a piece of shit ricordino, a remembrance of something better forgotten. Someone left you. Someone lost you. And now you're trash."
She stood up in her convertible, reached back, and flung the butterfly into the air as a curdled fog seeped in. Sitting back in her seat, she lightly touched the mother-of-pearl rosary beads hanging from the mirror and fanned her hands over her eyes. "Mi aiuti," she implored to no one. "Help me."
Chapter TwoTyler Beck waded into the ocean. The water was frigid, and the foamy waves weaved between his calves like the caress of a cold cat seeking warmth. He looked at the sky, a vortex of blue and magenta, as the sun started its descent into the Pacific. The beach was littered with remnants of the previous evening's revelries. He glanced down at a red box with yellow letters announcing "Noisemaker" floating in the water, and a paper crown with 2007 emblazoned in gold glitter.
Welcome to another New Year, there's no turning back, he thought as he bent down, picking up the crown. He touched the Buddhist mala bracelet on his wrist, moving the beads along the skinny string. High school graduation in five months. My birthday in sixteen days. Robie's return home, in what, twelve, thirteen days? Before my eighteenth birthday? He walked out of the water.
The idea of his future was exciting, yet as confining as the sand caking his toes. Time stuck to your body and mind. The actions, the reactions, the worries could pile up like a peel. He wished time could be like powder, not a messy powdered clump like damp sand, but one that would shimmer the skin and seal in the clean; if experience could retain the innocence. He walked to the trash can, knocking his feet together. He paused by the receptacle and gathered the backpack he had left leaning beside it. This was his mark, his territory. He had rested against this can myriad times, watching the heaving waves breathe in and out, and in black marker he had christened the trash can as his. BECK. He unzipped his pack and grabbed his jeans and iPod, slipping on the Levis over his swimming trunks and clipping the iPod to his belt. His favorite artist, Beck Hansen, was right where he had left him, singing Emergency Exit. Beck the singer was now known as just Beck, and so was he. He punched his head through his red tee and adjusted the backpack on the shoulders of his tall, muscular body.
Crumpling the 2007 crown, he flung it into the can. Something caught his eye. A white ceramic butterfly perched on top of the refuse. How pretty, yet how plain, he thought, more a moth than a butterfly. He pinched the pristine wings, and felt a swift, strange pang of déjà vu flow through his body, accompanied by a wave of nausea that quickly retreated. In any event, he thought, steadying himself against his can, it was too sweet to discard. Maybe he'd give it to his sister, Arabella.
Beck started walking eastward. He stopped momentarily, feeling as if he'd been shocked, as a numbness shot through his body. It was a familiar feeling, and he fought it. He felt himself buckle and then, deliberately looking down at his flip-flops, he continued shuffling in the sand, staring at his feet as if they were a compass until he reached the pavement.
He felt as if something was about to engulf him, fold over him, and he looked over his shoulder to see if there was a wave at his back. He heard voices. "You OK? Good," a woman whispered, followed by a man's soft, comforting offer of help. "This has wings to take you home, Son," the man said gently, and he felt a hand press the butterfly against his palm so hard he was sure it left an imprint. Looking up, he saw the sun coming up over the horizon, the rays cracking the sky into a brand new day. A bell droned in the distance and as he lowered his gaze he saw that he was clothed in his black suit.
Beck hesitated, then slowly rounded a corner and saw an empty plaza. He staggered to a chipped green metal bench and placed his backpack on the ground between his feet, still in his sand-coated yellow flip-flops. He wanted to take it in, this foreign place, and get a sense of his bearings, but instead he closed his eyes. The bell faded and he heard a faraway clamor, like the background static in his school cafeteria. He felt frozen and yet the day, wherever he was, was warm and humid. The sun pierced his eyelids and he prayed that when he opened them, he'd be back at the beach, a hundred feet from his beloved BECK can, the sun falling westward as it was swallowed by the mountain, a jarful of stars spilling across the sky of a new night.
Beck felt tears emerging from the corners of his eyes, and while he fleetingly thought they could be from the sting of the sun, he knew they welled from a place nestled deep inside, a pocketful of fear. He heard sounds of doors opening or closing, but he kept his eyes stitched and stifled his chokes as the dread wound from his belly to his throat with a serpentine crawl. He wondered if this fear of the unknown was something felt by his friend Robie when he went to Iraq the previous year. Robie would have prepared himself for the apprehension in the way that he would break down every problem. When Beck would come to him with an issue—Robie never called them problems, only issues—Robie would counsel Beck with an observation and a question: "So here you are. Now look behind you and trace how you got here. Look at those breadcrumbs. Are you where you want to be?" Robie could look at an issue with calmness and clarity and crystallize the situation into a beautiful prism until there was no problem, no issue, only a present moment full of the promise of more precise footing in the future. Robie was a man of God. Robie was the rainbow's arc. He could be a leader, a life coach. What a waste, Beck thought. Iraq. Bush. Hussein. Who's Insane?
His eyes were still closed as the sun dried the wet patches on his cheeks. He felt a cool, gentle breeze waft over his body, and blinking his eyes open, he saw a woman sitting next to him. Her long blonde hair cascaded down her back, loose tendrils framed her translucent face, and she wore a simple white sleeveless shift that draped to her bare feet.
"Hello, Tyler," she said, the words clear and echoing, like a resonant chime. Her red, glossy lips were arched in a lopsided smile, and her black eyes glistened. "Hello and welcome. I'm Miranda," she added.
Beck stared at her, shielding the glare with a hand over his forehead. "I know you," he whispered. "I've seen you before."
The woman nodded in acknowledgement. Beck looked down at his suit and felt another flood of tears.
"Your name's Miranda?"
"Miranda? Am I dead?" The words dropped, and in the distance he heard a crash.
"No, Tyler," she said softly. "We have met before, and I told you it wasn't your time. It still isn't your time." She caressed his hand. "I know you're frightened, but you needn't be. You're here because you want to be here. You asked to be here, and I am here to help you," she continued in her bellbird voice.
All Beck heard was the word here, reverberating. "Where am I?" he asked cautiously.
"Well, you're in Italy, but that is just your projection. Actually, you're in 10-17."
"10-17," Beck repeated. "And that would be what? The year?"
"No, not the year 1017. In Robie's school you studied the passage that said, 'In My Father's house there are many mansions.' You could substitute the word dimension for mansions. In the Universe there are many dimensions. You can think of them in terms of a window blind. There are several segments of a blind with spaces in between."
She extended her arms, her hands climbing through the air. "This is the blind, and here is the obvious space, this is the blind, here is the space. When you are placed on this blind, for example," she said, wiggling one arm, "you are, so to speak, pretty much unaware of anything but where you are. You are blind to the next blind." She paused and laughed delightedly at her pun, then continued. "You sit on this blind as say, a speck of dust. Then one day a great arm reaches out and rolls up the blind to let in the light. The speck of dust moves slightly and settles. It's now between two rolled up slats, so close now they are nearly touching. Your Earth plane, 10-71, is here," she said, her left hand hovering in the air. "Another dimension, another world, one can safely say, lies here," she said, her right hand rising above the left. "Dimension 10-17 is another segment of the blind that you, Tyler Beck, are in right now." Miranda paused, her eyebrows raised, her luminous face angled to one side, a wordless gesture of 'Do you understand?'
Beck smiled for the first time since leaving the world that he knew. "Miranda, if I'm a speck of dust on a blind, then you would be ... what ..." he trailed.
"I would be the hand pulling the strings," she finished with a gentle titter.
Beck closed his eyes again and stretched his long legs in front of him. "Miranda?"
"I'm here, Tyler."
Excerpted from The Window Blind by Patricia Colton Copyright © 2011 by Patricia Colton. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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