Chapter 2 - Danica
There is so much to do before I leave for my book tour. Traveling Europe has been a dream of mine, and it is finally coming true. I have always wanted to see the ruins of Pompeii. My grandparents went when they were much younger; that’s how they met. It’s such a romantic tale that has been an inspiration for many of my novels. Despite my daydreams of living in a European city and falling in love, I live in Beaverton, Oregon. My grandparents live here, or I would be living my dream elsewhere.
My grandparents raised me from when I was very young. My parents were in an accident when I was six, leaving me and my older brother, Charlie, in the care of our grandparents. Charlie is only a few years older than me. My grandparents were young when they had my dad, and Dad was even younger when he had Charlie and then me a few years later. At 26, Charlie is the head coach of little league baseball in Portland. He was offered the job after injuring his shoulder in the minors where he was on the fast track to the majors. He lives alone but is always home on the weekends. Charlie is one of my best friends. I would be lost without him.
I’m in my attic bedroom, putting things away and out of sight. My grandparents don’t need to trip over my stuff if they decide to clean up here which Gram will; she always does. I chuckle to myself as I stuff stray photographs into boxes and books onto overstuffed shelves. The sound of a car honking on the street below calls me to the window. I grin when I see my brother and his friend, Danny. Danny is only a year older than I am. He was a grade above me in high school, and somehow he and my brother became good friends which is cool because Danny has always been friendly.
I give my room a once over before heading downstairs. It’s been awhile since Charlie has come to visit because it’s baseball season. I race out the front door, giving my brother just enough time to catch me when I jump into his arms.
“Hey!” Charlie says, chuckling as he tries to keep his balance. “How’s my favorite sister?”
“Half-sister,” I tease, laughing as he sets me on my feet. “We have different mothers, remember?”
“Does that really matter?” he asks, raising an eyebrow. “Anyways, Danny and I came to visit since you won’t be here next time we come.”
I smile and turn to Danny. He grins as we embrace. He is friggin’ tall! At 5’11”, Danny seems to tower over me, yet Charlie is even taller at 6’2”. When Danny and I pull apart, we enter the house. Gram and Gramps are out on a date, so the house is empty.
“You’re really going, huh?” Danny asks when he notices my random lists all over the wall.
“Yep,” I sigh, nodding as I rub my thumb over the tape to keep the lists from falling to the floor. “Like, finally! It only took me four years!”
“That’s not so bad,” Charlie says, looking at the flyer I taped next to a photo of the Ruzmarin Hotel in Čačak, Serbia. “This isn’t the first place on your list, right?”
“Right; that’s my last stop. After hearing so much about it, I wanted to make sure I had time to tour the city. I’ll be there at least a whole week prior to the event and a few days afterwards.”
“Looks pretty cool,” Danny says, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets.
I glance at him but see that he appears distracted, lost in his mind. I choose against asking him about the expression.
We go into the living room, talking about my trip and my new novel plans. I sometimes feel a little embarrassed about my novels. My ideas come from pure imagination and desires I’ve always wanted to fulfill. There’s nothing outrageous or anything like that, just simple-minded dreams I had growing up. Every girl, woman, has these aspirations. I know that. But sometimes I feel like certain stories are only meant for my eyes, like my most recent release, which is the entire reason why I’m going on this book tour in the first place.
If I were to fall in love, I would want him to be pure of heart. Loyal. Faithful. If he’s those things, I’ll be a happy camper. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about meeting your match - soulmate, if you will - it is to love them for who they are inside first and then what is on the outside. Not everyone who is beautiful on the outside is the same on the inside. I would know. I’ve met a good many people who were not who they said they were.
“Don’t go falling in love in Europe,” Danny teases with a grin, accentuating the dimples in his cheeks.
“Aww, you are in love with me!” I sing, clasping my hands together. “I knew leaving would make you realize it!”
“No, I’m not in love with you!”
“You live in denial, Daniel Montoya.”
As usual, our fun and games turns into a course of laughing hysteria. It was actually Charlie who began teasing me about liking Danny. I don’t like him that way. He’s fun to be around and goof off with but nothing more. I’m sure that if there were actual feelings between us, they would have manifested in high school.
My phone beeps in my pocket, indicating a new email. I pull it out to give it a quick glance when I see it is a message sent to my author email. I smile softly and open the message. I love reading messages from people who read my work. Of course, there are those people who don’t enjoy my writing style, but I’ve learned to not let those get to me.
March 24, 2016
Subject: Aching Heart
First, I wish to say that I am entirely new to your writing. Do not ask how I stumbled onto it because it is a bit hard for me to explain. Secondly, ‘Aching Heart’ has to be the most profound novel I have ever read. I am not one who spends very much time reading for pleasure. Books of information are more my speed (I suppose that would be how to say it in America, as English is not my first language).
I do not know if you will personally respond, and though I do not expect you to, I wish to tell you that I can thoroughly relate to the story. I do not know how to say this. Like Adam, my mother left my father for another man. It’s been eight years since that day, but neither my father nor I have fully recovered the blow. I read the excerpt on your website and it was as if you told my story word for word. I bought the book so I might know what happens afterwards.
I am not telling you this to make you feel bad. I tell you this because after eight years, I can finally let it go. Like Adam. I commend you for writing such a story, and thank you for sharing it. The advice Adam receives from his comrades and beloved spoke to my heart.
With much respect and final greetings,
I read the email twice before letting a smile creep across my face. I get emails from readers all the time, but I’ve never received one like this before. As a matter of fact, this is the first email I’ve received concerning Aching Heart. Someone clears his throat and I glance up. Charlie is watching me expectantly. Danny’s left eyebrow is cocked as he, too, tries to decipher my smile.
“A reader messaged me about Aching Heart,” I explain, waving my phone in the air. “It’s the first one.”
“Oh, that’s good then?” Charlie asks, his demeanor changing slightly. “I thought you might have gotten a message from a secret admirer or something. That smile would give anyone that impression.”
“It must have been a guy writing it,” Danny says, wiggling his eyebrows.
“So what if it was?” I retort, placing my hands on my hips, my phone fisted in my right hand. “I have all kind of readers, both women and men. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Sure, until you have a crazy old hermit stalking you because he thinks you will treat him the way your characters treat him.”
I roll my eyes. “I could slap you right now, Montoya!”
“But you won’t,” Danny chuckles, shaking his head, his dark hair swaying above his shoulders. “You love me too much.”
“You’re right,” I sigh with mock-contentment. “I do love you too much. So much that I have our wedding all planned out. Would you care to see? I have the photo album upstairs.”
I make a show starting for the stairs. I hear a pair of hustled footsteps and laugh as Danny runs past me, blocking the stairway.
“Bad joke?” I ask, crossing my arms over my chest.
“Terrible,” Danny replies, glaring at me with those dark brown eyes.
“Don’t open the can of worms if you are squeamish about slime,” I quote Gramps with a grin.
Danny rolls his eyes but smiles in return. All joking aside, we return to the living room. Charlie is laughing and shaking his head.
“Funny how you two can joke about that,” he says, tears falling from his eyes. “But if you ever actually try dating each other, the friendship will go crazy.”
“We’re never going to be like that with each other,” Danny says, waving his hand dismissively. “You, of all people, should know that.”
“You’re right,” Charlie continues to chuckle. “I do know that.”
Danny and I exchange an eye roll. Charlie laughs for a little longer before we can finally change the subject. Charlie and Danny start talking baseball, but I hardly keep up with the conversation. My mind is on that email. I need to send a reply. Like now.