Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chocophoria: Collage and Poem

Chocophoria collage
This is a collage I made last year (2009) consisting of chocolate wrappers from all over the world, stickers and other chocolate-themed objects. Arnott's Original (Australia, aka "Tim Tams"), Whitman's (US), Cadbury Crunchie (UK), Aero (UK), See's Candies (US, San Francisco) and Lindt (Switzerland) among others. I've always been a chocoholic from waaay back in my childhood.

Chocolate in Many Languages

Chocolat , Sjokolade
Qâiokèlì, cokoláda, tsokolate
suklaa,  shokolade, siocled, coklat, seacláid,
sôcôla, Schokolade, sokolaad,
chokoreto , czekolada.

(Italian, French, Afrikaans, Simplified Chinese, Czech, Filipino/Tagalog, Finnish, Russian, Welsh, Malay and Indonesian, Irish, Vietnamese, German, Estonian, Japanese, Polish, English)

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What am I Reading This Month?

I never read just one book at a time. There are piles of books at my bedside, on the kitchen table, on the shelves...lots of books. My husband bought me a button that read, "I am a bookaholic. If you have any mercy, you will not sell me another book."

I think he was trying to tell me something. He always reads one book at a time.

If you want to write, you must read, read, read. Read about your interests, read all sorts of fiction, non-fiction, poetry...keep reading. Not only will it open your horizons, but different authors write in different styles. Every person has a unique viewpoint and a way of using words that comes from just that person. Find that style that shows who you are. If you copy another author's style, the result may be a good imitation of that author, but it isn't your voice.
What am I reading? This month, it's mostly professional and non-fiction. Languages and linguistics and writing books, but I'll also devour autobiographies and travel books. I proudly profess that I'm an armchair traveler, since I can't physically go to Provence, to Australia, or to Zimbabwe at the moment.

1) The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker. This book analyzes our minds through the words we use every day. How do we string nouns, verbs, etc. together to form coherent thought? Language is based around certain core themes, like space and family. How do we construct these as kids? This book has a lot of linguistic technical jargon, so it isn't a casual summer novel that you can take to the beach.

2) Codebreaker by Stephen Pincock. A history of codes and ciphers, from the Egyptians to modern times. Luckily, not as complicated as Pinker's book, with plenty of illustrations and examples. There are many side stories about unbreakable(?) and ciphers that people are still working on. Try your hand at them.

3) Page after Page by Heather Sellers. I also have Seller's follow-up to this Chapter by Chapter. Writing can be a huge, overwhelming task, but if you break it up into tiny pieces, page after page, you can follow your writing dream.

4) The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington by Jennet Conant Yup, the same Roald Dahl who wrote James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  In 1942, he was an RAF pilot, assigned to the American Embassy in Washington DC after he was wounded in action. This is the story of how he and other British officers slipped into the social scene in DC, and at the same time, promoted British interests during World War II. An interesting look at British (counter)intelligence after Pearl Harbor.

5) Inside Inside by James Lipton. I love "Inside the Actors Studio" on Bravo channel. Lipton invited actors, directors and screenwriters for an hour of conversation on stage, in front of acting and directorial students of his New School. This is his autobiography, telling of his his own beginnings in the acting business, and how "Inside" came to be.

Plus two very special books I stumbled upon in the used bookstore. My closest friends know that I love collecting books dating before 1950. I have copies of Horatio Hornblower and Master and Commander dating from the early 20th century. These two are stamped as "Wartime Books", with first printings between the years of 1941-1945. They're both published by F.S. Crofts and Co. from New York.

6) Cartilla Militar: Companeros de Armas by Navascues and Sherman.(copyright 1944, first printing 1941) It's a book for students who have already had some Spanish grammar, and it covers vocabulary (and idioms) of the armed forces during World War Two. It goes into naval, air force, and army jargon. There's a whole chapter on aviation, ship operations, and even medical treatment of the time. Talk about learning Spanish through context.

7) An Introductory Portuguese Grammar by Edwin B. Williams (copyright 1944, first printing 1942). A grammar book on Portuguese as spoken in Portugal (with some notes on Brazilian Portuguese). Spanish and Portuguese may look similar, but they aren't alike. What's interesting about this book is that on the inside cover, there's faded writing identifying the original owner (I think). It's in colored pencil, but I can make out some words.  "Mr. (Dr?) K---- Stroujel(?) (8442), 4232  2nd PL N. Apt 4, Arlington, VA". I think.  Both this book and the Spanish Grammar one have copious notes written in the margins  and words underlined in red pen.

Both books a portal to the past. Other books are portals to the present and to the future.  READ THEM!

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ode to my Son, at the End of First Grade

Michael at 10 months

My son, how you have grown!

Seven years now, and if I'd known

How tall and handsome you'd get!

I feel my age, and sigh, and yet

I smile, for in the end, I see...

Michael at 7 years old
That you will always be a part of me.

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Story Excerpt #3 from "Cantadora": Chapter 3: "Serena, the Devoted One"

Chapter 3: Serena
The Devoted One

The Temple of the Sun Lady towered over the other buildings of Santo Tomas, white stone and polished marble with gold gilding above the doors. Devotees entered through the main gallery and were greeted by a statue of Santo Tomas. His outstretched hand pointed them towards the main Altar, draped in white silk and decorated with fresh flowers. The Altar was surrounded by the smaller Elemental Shrines. Santo Tomas’s was Fire, the fire of passion, of creativity and of healing. The Water Elemental was represented by the Lobos River, that flowed through the town. Air was the summer breezes that swept through the valley, and earth was the food brought out of its depths. The shrines fairly bulged with offerings; gifts of sea salt, candles, incense and holy soil multiplied as the morning went on.

A Cloister Sister lit the braziers of spicy incense. Another Sister rang the bells, and a third played on a wooden flute. Two drummers sat cross-legged on either side of the marble altar, their steady beat heard even above the noise of the crowd.

Most of the people enjoyed the gathering, yet some of Santo Tomas's elite preferred their own solitary devotions. Doña Serena Ferro-Rasquez knelt in front of the Sun Lady's private altar. Serena, as the wife of Santo Tomas' vice-mayor, insisted on a quieter worship.
The niche was cut into the red adobe walls, then sanded smooth and gilded with sheets of thin gold. Vases of fresh flowers adorned it, interspersed with votive candles and vials of holy water. At the center of the altar was a painting of the Lady of the Sun and her twin, the Lady of Darkness. The Righteous was clothed in brilliant garments that matched Her porcelain skin and girdle. The Terrible wore robes of black and red, her dark eyes smoldered with hate, her lips painted in ruby gloss.

Serena touched the small statue of the Sun Lady, then the smaller figure of Santo Tomas, Her faithful servant. The Blessed Man wore the homespun clothes of a simple trader, and thus was the town’s guardian.

A shadow floated at the corner of her eye. At first, she thought it was merely another penitent, but it was dressed in dark clothing, and not the bright colors of the townspeople. She turned around, but no one was there, save for the worshipers in the wooden pews, deep in their own devotions. There was Senhor Claudio the baker with his brood in the front pew, then Senhora Trupi with her perfumed hair and voluminous skirts. Serena frowned in disapproval; Trupi was a hypocrite, but the High Priestess still allowed her to pray at the altar.

Poor Trupi. May she find her enlightenment, as well as all those who walk the crooked path in the Shadows. The Sun Lady offered forgiveness for all, but some required more penitence than others. Serena’s mouth quirked as she thought about the High Priestess herself. How many secrets lay buried within the Sun Lady’s Servant? After five years of spying, Serena still had no idea, and that worried her.

Serena continued her prayers with a new fervor. Her chant rose and fell in cadence. "Lady of Light, protect my house and all who dwell within it. Lady of Light, have mercy on those who still live in disbelief and bring them to you, someday--"

She paused, as she usually did, to pray for her brother and her sister-in-law. Poor, poor Reynaldo. How had he gotten involved with a family of sorcerers? He had been brought up within the Abbey, as Serena had been in the Cloisters, but Reynaldo never quite devoted himself as completely as was proper. Then the Brothers had discovered his skill in trade and negotiation, and he had been sent to the Traders' Circle. Serena still believed it had been the correct decision. Someone who did not believe in a cause should not be forced to pursue it.

At least Mother had the intelligence to realize that, Serena thought with a wry twist of her lips. Serena chose to remain in the Cloister and devote herself to prayer for her family. Elena Razquez approved of her decision; after all, what proper mother would want less for her daughter? The family needed all the heavenly support it could get.

Serena was content in the Cloister. Its simple, repetitive routine gave structure to her life. The Words provided her with comfort and joy. she felt more alive during her Devotions than at any other time of the day. It was as if the Sun Lady herself had granted her most secret wish: to enfold Serena into Her arms and protect her forever. She had been ready to take her vows as a Sister. Reynaldo understood her zeal, if not her intentions, and encouraged her. As Serena had found purpose within the Cloister, Reynaldo had found it with the Traders.

Then the impossible happened. Doña Elena, their mother, died suddenly from a brief, but devastating, illness. Don Bianco, their father, assumed complete control. He had never been particularly religious and did not comprehend his wife's--or his daughter's--religious fervor.

"You will listen to me," he told her on the day he dragged her from the Cloister. "It is time you lived in the real world, not a world of mystical nonsense."

Before she knew it, she was married to Miguel Ferro, one of Don Bianco's dearest friends, and a rising political figure in the town. Miguel was not unkind, but he was not loving, either. Reynaldo found out about the wedding after the fact--by that time, he had married Magdalena Sampara, the town weaver. Reynaldo had chosen Magda of his free will. Serena was furious at her brother for defying all they had been taught, and listening to his heart.

That, and having the courage to do so. Serena laughed silently. The courage I lacked in the name of following my elder, like a traditional daughter should. Not everyone heeds the traditional Call. Her various spies had reported the arrival of Lady Isabel, the Senior Healer of the Southern Circle, and Isabel was sure to visit her cousin, Magdalena.

The Healers. A bunch of stiff-necked vultures who would have died out long ago, had she not intervened. A wry smile tugged at her lips at the memory.

She came to the end of her formal prayers. then she raised her eyes to the twin images on the altar. Her mind groped for the words to say; she was never good at speaking from the barriers within her heart.

"Lady of the Sun, I come to you in great need. I wish your guidance. I ask for your mercy on the child. I fear for it, Lady, with Isabel as godmother. Mystical talent runs in that family, and I sense dark power within Magda's womb."

Serena stole a furtive glance at the Lady of Darkness. Was it her imagination, or did lightning flash within the cobalt eyes? The flames of the candles flared once, as if in agreement. Serena felt a surge of self-righteous indignation. If it had been her child, she would send the little one to the Cloister and the Curandera. They knew how to handle those born with the potential of wild, uncontrollable Talents. Serena wished for a chance to do so--perhaps there might still be a way.

She linked her hands around her prayer stones and raised them, straightening her back and gazing deep within the Sun Lady's eyes. Tears streaked down her cheeks. "I implore you, as a humble supplicant, to give me the courage to defy the grand plans of my brother and his wife, for the child's sake. I followed my father's will as meekly as a lamb and discovered how much of a coward I really was. It pulled me off the path to You and now I must rediscover my way. Speak to me Your will; tell me, show me what I must do. For my salvation, and the family's, please guide me."

The stones grew warm within her hands. Again, her gaze strayed to the Lady of Darkness. No, she thought fiercely,I will not let You destroy my family, not this time. Your curse will stop here and now. You took my mother in death and my brother in disbelief. I will not stand idle any longer.

But the gaze held her in its thrall. Serena's arms trembled, then sank back to her sides. The voice was as sweet as precious sugar, just as rich, and full of warm love, just as she imagined it would.

My daughter, I will never leave. I will give you the aid you so richly deserve. Never fear for the souls of your beloved niece or of your brother. I will save them. I reward deep devotion such as yours, especially after the trials you have been through. You deserve such reward.

The Lady had answered her prayer. But why was she so frightened? Had she made a mistake? Had she--? Serena tried to sob, but her vocal cords were paralyzed and the Lady spoke to her again.

Listen now, My daughter, and I will tell you what to do. My will to yours, My heart to yours. Do you fear Me?

"Yes, but I don’t know why. I have never been afraid of You—“

I will never lead you astray, you know that. Will you trust Me?

Serena's mouth moved of its own accord. "Yes."

Will you follow Me?

Yes. Yes, of course.”

Good. Very good.

Serena knelt in front of the Lady's altar and listened attentively. She never noticed that she was staring at the Lady of Darkness, not at the Sun Lady, as she had thought. The painting's rosy lips curled into a slight, slight smile.

When she came back to herself, the Lady’s voice had died down to a mere whisper in her mind, but she still felt Her love and guidance. Serena stood up from the kneeler with renewed determination. She would save her brother’s child and the rest of Santo Tomas from the darkness. The Lady had told her how to do so, but she needed time to prepare.

Serena quickly left the Sanctuary, drawing her veil over her face as a proper noblewoman did in public. Despite her veil, most of the townspeople recognized her and asked for her blessing. She smiled and laid her hands on theirs and spoke the traditional words: “May the Sun Lady herself bless your house and those who live within it.” A warm current spread out from her fingers and seeped into the skin of the petitioner.

She hurried into the courtyard of her husband’s house, giving a nod to the servants bustling about the estate. Serena climbed a set of polished granite steps to the main audience chamber, where the festa was being held.

She circled the banquet hall, adjusting a setting here, pinning a drape there. Her expert eye found many flaws in the servants' costumes. Serena admonished them with quiet words as she corrected them. "Everything must be perfect for the banquet," she said. "We must display Santo Tomas in all its glory."

None of the servants noticed the slight electric thrill of her touch and they went about their assigned tasks. The tingle buried its way into the ceramic plates, the silver wine goblets and the table settings. It wormed into the cakes and vegetables, the fruit and roast beef, all without the cooks' knowledge.

Serena knew. A part of her cried out in dread and terror, but it never reached her ears. The Lady had promised their deliverance; She would do so. She had heard the prayers and answer them in Her own way; Serena was only an instrument of Her mercy.

Mercy or wrath? Then the words skittered across her mind and were lost in the numbing ether.

"A beautiful room, Carissima," boomed Don Miguel Ferro. The vice-mayor of Santo Tomas surveyed the festival hall and beamed with pride. His balding head reflected the sunight, and the gray mustache quivered in genuine delight. He wore an orange festival shirt embroidered in gold and silver thread, and pants hemmed in the same fashion. The red sash emphasized Miguel’s considerable girth.

Magda’s quiet joke, when she designed it for him. She always had a sense of dark humor under the graciousness.The thought of Magdalena worried her for a brief moment, but then, it too was gone.

"Te de Gracio, my dear," Serena answered with her most disarming smile. Miguel straightened and extended his hand to his wife. The tingle crawled up her fingers and buried itself into Miguel’s blood. Her husband didn’t notice as she brought her to the door to greet their adoring guests.

Forward to Chapter Four
Back to Chapter Two

excerpt from "Cantadora" by A. Dameron 2011. All rights reserved.tadora" by A. Dameron 2010. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Story Excerpt #2 from "Cantadora": Chapter 2: Magadalena, the Dance of the Drums""

2. Magdalena
The Dance of the Drums

Magdalena Razquez-Sampara plucked a ripe orange from a stall in the market square. The hot summer sun gleamed upon its skin and made it glow like a ripe flame. She held it to her nose and inhaled the rich, sweet scent.

"How much for this?" she asked the seller.

"Two cevos," he replied. A slow smile of anticipation cracked his leathery face, raising two large dimples over his mouth. His gray mustache trembled in mirth.

"Two? For this orange? One-fifty."

The seller grunted in amusement and crossed his well-muscled arms. His colorful shawl wrinkled over his portly body at his movement. "One seventy-five, Senhora Magdalena."
Her mouth fell open in mock astonishment, then she drew herself up to her full height. It was difficult, with a belly swollen in pregnancy, but she managed it anyway. "You cheat, Senhor Esteban. One sixty."

"One-sixty five. I haven't cheated my customers in my sixty-eight years, Senhora."

"One-sixty, Senhor Esteban, and you are eighty-six, not sixty-eight."

So the banter passed between them, rapid-fire like a game of bola. She wept that he was emptying her purse. Senhor Esteban claimed she was destroying his profit. In the end, she bought a dozen oranges for a cevo fifty-five each. Senhor Esteban arranged them in a basket for her as she counted out the coins. At the conclusion of the sale, they shook hands and parted as friends.

Te de Gracio,” Magdalena called out in a cheerful voice.

De nada,” Senhor Esteban called back. “Enjoy your Festival Day!”

And you!” She took her basket of oranges and walked deeper into the cluster of stalls.
The vendors in the Santo Tomas marketplace called out their wares, their voices blending in strange harmony. Spicy aromas of fried pastry clashed with the sweet scents of exotic perfumes. A young girl danced to the tune of a drumbeat, her skirts flying around her like the petals of a rainbow rose, and her bangles clashing into each other like cymbals. A crowd had gathered around her, lending their voices to the folk song and clapping to the beat. Magdalena watched with genuine appreciation of the girl’s skill.

There was a time when I could dance like that. I wonder if I still can, as heavy as I am.
As if she had been heard, the girl’s eyes met hers. She extended one arm to Magdalena and the tune changed, as if an invisible baton had been passed. Magdalena put her orange basket down on the ground and swayed to the tempo, then took center stage. Despite her huge belly, she danced with grace and balance, never missing a single beat. Her long black hair hung in two braids that whipped about her body, and her hands made graceful, bird-like motions, each slender finger perfectly positioned. Her red-orange skirt floated around her like the petals of a flower, with the gold hem lining its border. Years melted away; she was fifteen again, and the freedom surged through her, just for this little while.

The audience clapped and murmured their appreciation. “Ay, she shines from within,” said Senhora Casaona. The old doña peered through her thin-rimmed lenses at Magdalena with a look of complete envy. “This child enjoys the dance as much as the mother.”

Brings back memories, eh, Casaona?” teased Senhor Balan. The jewelry maker was as old as Casaona and Esteban combined; his words drew a chuckle from the bystanders.

Sehnora Casaona snorted. “I once had glossy black hair like little Magdalena here, and oval-shaped eyes that could bewitch every man this side of the Lobos. Not to mention a trim figure and long, graceful limbs like hers...”

Of course, madrona,” Balan said in a reasonable tone. “Of course, just like hers.”

Magdalena flushed in pleased embarrassment. She was no beauty, but she couldn’t help but smile at Senhora Casaona’s compliment. The tempo began to speed up once more, and she glanced over her shoulder at the young dancer, who stood respectfully at a distance. Their gazes met and a electric thrill passed between them. Magda knew her from somewhere, perhaps as a sister or a friend from a previous life, long forgotten. Her practical side reminded her that she had never seen this girl before; her sentimental side was being fanciful.

Sentiment? Or is it the Sun Lady’s Truth? Magdalena shivered as a cold shadow touched her brow. Her hands automatically cradled her belly in a gesture of protection as it passed over her. The girl’s mouth moved in a chant of protection, then she made a slight gesture of banishment, and the chill left Magda entirely.

Is she an Elemental Novia then? That didn’t sound right; most young girls with the Mystic Talent were taken into the Sun Lady’s Temple and trained as novices. How had this one been overlooked? Magda gazed into the girl’s deep brown eyes, and she understood; the girl didn’t want anyone to know.

It is her choice. Let her keep her secrets. The Sun Lady knows that we all have them. Magdalena heard the key change, and with an abrupt gesture, she returned the baton to the girl, and she seized it with gusto. The drummers pounded their drums for the final stanza and chorus. The villagers of Santo Tomas sang in one voice:

We praise you, Sun Lady, with heart and hands and voice,
We praise your light and warmth and your choice,
To shine upon our blessed land.
As you bade your servant Tomas to walk the desert sand
To found our town in your shining name.
We praise you, Lady, this beautiful day
And we pledge our lives to the words you say!”

The dancer threw her head and her arms to the sky at the last verse, and struck a pose as the drums thudded into silence. Roars of applause thundered from the onlookers and the dancer curtsied in reply.

Please, visit my family’s stall in the Artisan’s Quarter,” she said in a soft voice that nevertheless carried over the crowd. “My father makes drums like the ones you have heard, and my mother teaches dance. If you like what you see, then see more!”

After another round of claps, the drummers slung the straps of their jembas over their shoulders and marched into the sunlight. The bells on the cylindrical bases jingled with every step. The dancer waved and followed them, and a good number of visitors took up the rear of the impromptu procession. Among them were several in red-and-gray gowns and robes, who swayed as they walked. Magdalena clapped with the beat as the drums faded into the distance and the impromptu parade disappeared from sight.

I didn’t recognize their town colors. I wonder where they came from. She made a mental reminder to ask her husband, Reynaldo, when he arrived for Festival. Reynaldo knew every town and city’s trade colors as part of his trading group. If anyone would know, he would.
You dance beautifully,” said Senhora Casaona. She peered at Magdalena as Magdalena retrieved her orange basket. “I used to do the same, when I was younger.”

So you say,” Magdalena replied with a smile. “I wish I’d been there to see you dance, Senhora.”

Casaona’s smile made the wrinkled skin taut on her skull. “I’m sure you do. Perhaps your little one will be just as good at the dance or the drum, or as good as artisan as you are. Will you accept an old woman’s blessing?”

Magdalena nodded, even though she felt a shiver of foreboding. Senhora Casaona cannot harm my child. Besides, it will make her feel useful, instead of an appendage grafted onto Senhor Balan’s side. “Of course, Senhora.”

Casaona laid a bony hand upon her belly and droned, “May your little one enjoy the warmth of the Sun Lady’s light, and the grace of Her blessings for all time.” Casaona’s tone turned wheedling. “You hear me, little one. You listen to yourmamá in all things and do not disrespect her, for your mamá is a good lady. If I hear that you are naughty, then you will hear from meMi sentita?

The baby kicked hard enough to move Casaona’s hand away. The older woman snorted again. “There, I’ve told the little one to behave, but I have the feeling that this one will be an interesting challenge.”

We shall see, Senhora, as the years go by,” Magdalena said. “Te de Gracio, Senhora.”
Balan took Casaona’s shoulder and steered her back towards the marketplace. “We will see you at the Festival, Senhora Magdalena. Take care today; don’t overexert yourself.”

I will not,” Magdalena promised, but Balan was already out of earshot. She found herself rubbing the spot where Casaona had placed her hand and stopped with a frown. “Do not worry, my little one. Senhora Casaona has a good heart, but she israther strange at times.” She patted the bulge of the eighth-month child in her womb, who turned and flipped in protest. "All right, little one, we'll move."

She left that row of stands and headed towards the town square. There were fifty of those stands in all, double the number of a normal market day. Magdalena smiled at the other vendors' attempts at her purse. They had years to practice their routines, and she had heard them all.

"Would the Senhora like a flower to adorn her hair?" Like a magician, Senhora Carmen produced a rose between her fingers. Magdalena laughed and clapped her hands as Carmen spun like a gypsy. Two, then three roses, appeared, then four. Finally, a small bouquet blossomed in Carmen's arms. Magdalena accepted a single rose and wove it into the basket handle. Senhora Carmen waved as she made her way through the stalls.

"This silk scarf adds extra sparkle to the Senhora's beauty..." The scarlet fabric bloomed from the Senhor Raul's sleeve; she tried to return it, but Senhor Raul insisted she keep it. He draped it around her shopping basket "Keep it for the little one you carry," he told her. "See, the colors complement each other."

Magdalena nodded. The blue scarf matched the red rose and contrasted with the oranges. An idea formed within her mind; the colors would make a stunning Festival gown...A smothered cough brought her out of her musings. "Are you ill, Senhor?"

Senhor Raul shrugged in embarrassment. "Ah, just a touch of dust, Senhora. Nothing to be alarmed at. Thank you for indulging an old man."

She squeezed his arm. "Thank you, Senhor Raul. I will bring my little one to visit you often."
He brightened at her words. The warmth of his happiness followed Magdalena as she headed for the chilada stand. The smiling girl greeted her with a bright smile. "Can I tempt the lady into a golden-brown chilada? It melts in your mouth and fills your appetite..."

The child bounced in approval. Magdalena gave in to temptation and ordered two of them. The vendor hummed as her knife bit into the fragrant cheese. She spread the thin slices onto the flatbread, then added strips of dried meat and vegetables. With agile fingers, she wrapped them into a pouch, then drizzled it with sauce.

"Take this as well, Senhora," she said as she gave Magdalena a small carafe of sun-warmed tea. "You must keep up your strength for the child. It will be a hot day."

"You're too kind," Magdalena protested.

"Not at all. Thank you for your business, Senhora."

Magdalena climbed the steps to the fountain in the town square. The cool spray felt invigorating against her skin. As she ate her simple fare, Magdalena watched the activity along the main road. The main boulevard was normally busy with trade and entertainment, but today, the street was filled with color.

People came into the town by the Eastern Crossroads, the major thoroughfare in the land. Wagons were decked in their colors: red and gold for Luzuna City, the Forge of the Heart. Orange, maroon and blue for the Castelmera sailors, the People of the Sea. A handful of traders wore yellow and white for Santo Tomas, the favored city of the Sun Lady’s Warmth. Magda searched the faces of these men with eager anticipation, only to not find for whom she looked.

Here in the town square, the Mayor’s house was decorated with rainbow banners edged in the same yellow and white. The other buildings clustered around the Mayor’s house: one and two-storied homes, temples to the Sun Lady and her faithful servant Tomas, and artisan studios. Signs directed travelers to the inns and wayhouses. Magdalena admired the curved lettering set within stone mosaics; even the road signs looked like precious works of art.

Painters set up easels in front of their shops while musicians practiced their instruments on the street corners. Magda heard another rumble of drums, presumably from the dancer’s family shop. Travelers argued with the innkeepers for cheaper rates. A buzz of conversation rose around Magda like the hum of mosquitoes. The Festival of the Sun Lady drew crowds for miles around, and Santo Tomas prided itself on hospitality.

A familiar figure came into view, and her heart leaped within her chest. The man wore a yellow vest and green riding slacks, both embroidered with golden-white thread. His hat was pulled low over his face. Magdalena watched as he steered his horse towards the main Temple of the Sun Lady.

Reynaldo! He’s come home for the Festival! She started to get to her feet, but her heavy stomach made her slow. The man dismounted from his horse, then began to tie the lead reins to the post in front of the Temple. The sun threw his face into shadow, but Magdalena recognized the shape of his jaw and the strands of black hair under the hat.

Reynaldo! Husband!” she cried.

The man started, then turned in her direction. He lifted his hat from his brow, and she froze in concern. The well-defined cheekbones were more prominent now, jutting out with bony relief. Gray was sprinkled through his mustache and eyebrows. She gazed deep into his eyes and saw unbearable sadness in their depths.

Reynaldo, what is wrong? What has happened to you?” Magda trembled as she crept down the granite steps of the plaza. Once her feet touched steady ground, she picked up her pace. She held out her arms as she approached him. “Why are you—“

He smiled at her, her heart broke into pieces. Then he slowly faded from view, his outline erased like an old painting. By the time she reached him, he had disappeared.

Reynaldo!” she cried again. Her hand touched the post; she swore she could still feel the heat of his hand. Magdalena glanced around her, but no one else had noticed her husband’s presence.

If he’d been there at all.

I must be seeing things. The heat must be affecting me more than I think. But it was so real...I could have sworn he was there. She shook her head to clear it. Her longing was so strong, but she was a practical person by nature. It was time to get out of the sun, and to her clothing shop. Well, then, back to work for me, for I’m sure to have last minute customers in time for Festival. At the very least, I won’t have time so see mirages.

A part of her still insisted it was no mirage, and it wept in silence.

Forward to Chapter Three
Back to Chapter One

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010