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RUBIES AND OTHER GEMS
Family Paranormal Urban Fantasy
BY JOYCE DeBACCO
Escaping the reality of a clueless husband and willful kids, Lily engages in a romantic fantasy that proves all too real when Grandma’s rubies send her back in time. Aware she can’t mend her marriage or steer her kids in the right direction unless she stays in the here and now, she vows to leave the past to the past. All goes well until she accidentally sends herself back—without the rubies. Will her dysfunctional family fall apart? Or will they pull together for the common good? It could go either way.
Lily puttered around the house for the rest of the morning, glad she’d had a chance to eat, shower, and dress before she and Sam were to duke it out. With that confrontation looming uppermost in her mind, she found it difficult to concentrate on anything else, having dusted the same knick-knack twice before dropping in a kitchen chair to wait.
Shortly after noon, he came home. Without any greeting, he sat across from her. “I told them I was sick,” he said. “I’ll make it up later in the week.”
She straightened in her seat, anxious to get the unpleasantness over and done with, if that were even possible at this point.
“I let your dog out this morning,” he said.
“Well? You wanted to talk, talk.”
“I don’t know where to begin,” she said, trying to remain calm.
“How about the beginning?” His voice dripped with disdain.
“Yes, of course,” she said, wringing her hands. “First of all, I never intended to be gone so long, and for that I’m truly sorry. In fact, I’m sorry about everything that happened. The truth is I thought I was dreaming the first two times.”
He groaned. “My God, how many times were there?”
“Three,” she mumbled.
“Three times? You slept with him three times?”
“No! I never said I slept with him.”
“You didn’t sleep with him?”
She bit her lip. Clearly, this was not going to end well. “Well, yes. But only once.”
Seeing the raw pain on his face, she lowered her gaze. For Sam to express an emotion, however subtle, was a big concession for him. Taking a deep breath, she relayed the events leading up to her infidelity. She told him how upset she was about the children and his ready defense of them when they were clearly in the wrong. And she told him about her trying day in traffic. “When I got home I made myself a glass of lemonade and sat in the window seat in our room. Then I thought about Grandma sitting there and how women coped with family problems in years past. And that reminded me of her rubies.”
“Okay, okay,” he said impatiently. “Cut to the chase. What does that have to do with your screwing around?”
“I’m getting to that. But, please, don’t dismiss it before you hear me out. I promise everything I’m about to say really happened.”
He leaned back in his chair, legs outstretched, arms folded across his chest as if challenging her to make it good.
She issued a deep sigh, and then pushed on. “I put on the brooch and earring, crawled into my little nook, and fell asleep. When I woke up, I was still in the nook, but everything else was different. The room looked like it did when Grandma lived here, with the dark-stained four poster and the huge cabbage roses on the wall. Remember that old wallpaper that was such a bitch to peel off?”
“Yeah, yeah. Go on.”
“Anyway, it wasn’t my house anymore, Sam. Everything was the way it was when Grandma was little. I even saw her in the kitchen with her mother. They couldn’t see me though.”
His jaw hardened and he uncrossed his arms. “Don’t insult my intelligence, Lily. If you can’t tell me the truth, what the hell are we doing here?”
“Please, Sam, I am telling the truth. I know it’s not what you expected to hear, but it’s true. I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t lived it.”
“Are you trying to tell me you traveled back in time?”
“Yes! That’s exactly what I’m saying. When I realized that, I went outside to look around. Sam, everything was so peaceful and serene. There was no traffic, no noise, nothing but birds twittering. I walked right up the center of Main Street in the middle of the day. And when I came to where the Auto Emporium is now, it was a livery and blacksmith’s shop.”
She hesitated, reluctant to go on. “That’s where I met Daniel. And for some reason he was the only person who could see me. Don’t ask me why; I’m not an expert on time travel. Anyway, he took me for a ride on his horse and shared his lunch with Cookie and me.”
“The dog is his?” He leaned forward.
“Yes. But please don’t take your anger out on her. She’s really a sweet little dog.”
“Never mind the goddamn dog! Get on with the story.” He propped his elbows on the table and rested his forehead in his hands, as if preparing for a headache.
“After lunch we rode back to the livery, and I fell asleep under the oak tree that used to be there. When I woke up, I was back in my room. Naturally, I thought it was just a pleasant dream.”
At this point, Sam sprang from his chair so hard it fell over. “You expect me to believe that crap?” he snorted. “How dumb do you think I am?”
“Everything I said is true, Sam. I swear on my mother’s grave.”
He paced back and forth. Then he righted his chair and reseated himself. “And that’s it? That’s all that happened?”
“The first time, yes. When I woke up, I thought I’d been asleep all afternoon. But when I picked up my lemonade and saw I still had ice in my glass, it threw me. I didn’t know what to believe.”
She paused to gauge his reaction. His stone-cold expression told her he wanted to hear more about Daniel. “It was such a lovely dream that I wanted to go back. I won’t deny that I was attracted to him. But in my dream, Sam, in my dream.”
“Go on,” he spat out.
“Are you sure you want me to?”
“I said go on!” His face twisted into a mask of pain and anger.
She took a deep breath before continuing. “He could see I was upset and he was kind to me. Anyway, one thing led to another and, well, you know . . . But I swear, Sam, I didn’t know he was real until I came back and saw the whisker burn on my face and neck.”
Sam scrunched his eyes together with his thumb and forefinger, his mouth a grim slash across the lower half of his face.
Forging ahead, she said, “I told myself I wouldn’t go back again. But then things around here began deteriorating—Todd’s accident, Molly quitting school and moving in with a new boyfriend, and the troubles between us.”
“Wait, wait,” he interrupted. “Molly quit school? When?”
“Didn’t she tell you?”
“No, she didn’t.” His jaw hardened again. “But I’ll deal with that later. Go on.”
“After I read the letter notifying us that she dropped out, I got really depressed. I needed the peace and serenity of life the way it used to be. And I needed to see Daniel again. Mainly because he’s a decent man and deserved an explanation for my strange comings and goings. But I never intended the visit to last so long. I planned to come back in time to make dinner. The ice in my glass misled me. Or else time is irrelevant when you’re traveling through it. I don’t know how it works.”
“You’re saying the rubies did this? The same rubies you played with as a little girl?”
“Yes, and I know you’re wondering why it never happened before. I wondered about that too. And the only explanation I can give is that I was only a child then. I had no concept of the past, only the future. And to my child’s eye the future consisted of lipstick, pretty jewelry, and high heels. But the rubies are from the past, and I was thinking about the past when I wore them.” She slumped back in her seat, chin to chest. “I can’t tell you any more because I don’t know any more.”
When he didn’t respond, she stole a glance at him, his throat muscles contracting, as if he were having a difficult time swallowing her incredible story.
“I know you don’t believe me,” she said. “And if it’s any consolation, he didn’t believe me either until I showed him pictures of what happened to his cabin and livery in later years. He was devastated to learn his trade would soon be obsolete.”
“And I suppose you comforted him?” he said with a snarl.
“No. Nothing happened this last time. I slept on top of the covers.”
He snorted. “Yeah, right.”
“It’s true. Once he learned I was married and had a family, he was a perfect gentleman.”
Seeing the skepticism on his face, she nearly lost her composure. “Dammit, Sam, I never intended any of this to happen. All I wanted was to spend a few pleasant hours without worrying about everything that’s going wrong in my life.”
He rose abruptly, his chair scraping against the floor. “I need time to think on this. I don’t know whether to leave you or have you locked up in a loony bin.” He paced the length of the kitchen and back. Then he stopped pacing and headed for the door. “I have work to do in the garage.”
Blinking back tears, Lily watched him storm out. She couldn’t blame him if he decided to leave her. And if he decided to have her locked up, well, maybe that’s where she belonged, with all the other crazies babbling on about space ships, ghosts, and time machines.
After reading women’s fiction for many years, Joyce knew she wanted to create stories of her own. As the mother of four grown daughters, she’s familiar with the problems women face finding love, raising children, and stepping back when necessary. Her books place an emphasis on love and family dynamics with a touching love story threaded through each. You can usually find her in her office editing and rewriting. When she’s not taxing her brain with that, she finds putting jigsaw puzzles together relaxing. When she really wants to rest her brain, she sprawls out in front of the TV and tries to stay awake.
Links to Joyce’s website, blog, books, etc.
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Thanks, Joyce, for sharing your book with us!
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