Q:  It’s Tuesday @ 11am…do I know where my Teen and Tween are?
A:  Yes!  Roman is sleeping and growing…Jordi is awake and reading in bed…oops, it is now 11:12am, and I just found Roman also reading in a comfy chair by a window…it’s a reading morning!

Q:  What books are on my ping pong table?
A:  Okay…I want to strongly recommend that, if you have children, you check out The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles De Lint.  I finally started reading it to Jordi two nights ago, and last night we both dove into bed to read chapter 2.  He’s now about half-way through the book, all on his own…

Richard Hugo House
Works In Progress Open Mic Series
Excerpt from The Ghost Lords

Today is September 7th.  An anniversary of sorts.
September 7th was the last day my aunt saw her sister alive.
September 7th was the day my Mother decided to run away from her fiance.
And September 7th was the day my Father got lost in the everglades and found true love. 
On that fateful day, my Father was supposed to catch a late flight to San Francisco.  He was an optimistic freshman, recently accepted to Stanford University and itching for a degree in business. That is, until my Mother walked into his life and changed everything.      
     
Because of my Mother, he arrived at Stanford three days late, missing convocation and half of NSO week. Also because of my Mother, he chose a completely different major, became a Father at twenty-seven, and was a widower at thirty.  
         
This is why I want to wake up. If I can’t leave Spain on the Anniversary of my Mother’s departure, I’d at least like to see Barcelona, as we pass it by. As my last view of Spain would have been, should my plans have succeeded.  
Of course, I don’t really have to worry. My aunt always wakes me up as the lights of the old city roll into view. Together, we descend into the quiet cafe at the back of the train, breathe in the aroma of roasted coffee beans and croissants, and pass a few words back and forth, as the enduring structures of Barcelona’s painful history slide past us in the early morning twilight. According to Lucia, these are “her last moments of sanity, before the week to come.”    
My aunt and I live in an old farmhouse that she inherited decades ago, when she was about my age. The farm mostly pays for itself, but it is her work in the Provence region of France that keeps us afloat. Work that is almost completely shrouded in secrecy.
         
The cover story is that my polio-stricken, farm-booted, and entirely un-glamorous aunt is the “go to” woman for some mega-corporation’s annual shin-dig. Parties that she says are nothing more than company-funded, week-long celebrations of extravagant wealth and back-scratching; all geared toward CEO’s, Bankers, Royalty, Church Elites, and whoever else Lucia’s boss owes any favors.  
         
Of course, why they would hire my aunt for such a job was just one of the first questions to go unanswered. In fact, all I know about these parties, after six years of carefully aimed inquiries, is what she told me in the beginning: I hate them, and they are necessary.
         
Which is where Maggie and Tom come in. They look after me twice a year; supposedly so my aunt can focus without having her niece under foot. Of course, that excuse ran dry about two years ago when I started working at a local bed & breakfast.  If anyone can manage chaos and remain unobtrusive at the same time, it’s me! Not that I was foolish enough to say as much, since Lucia just about bit my head off the first – and last – time I asked if I could work with her in France.
         
Besides, I like visiting Maggie & Tom’s cabin. Hiking is one of my favorite activities, and their side of the Pyrenean mountain range is so riddled with trails that I’m endlessly finding new ones. It helps that, in addition to being two of the coolest people on earth, the only person who cooks better than Maggie…is Tom. 
And I do owe them.
If it weren’t for them, I don’t know what would have happened to me that first week after my grandmother dumped me on Lucia’s doorstep. Unable to get out of her work in France, and unwilling to leave her newly orphaned niece in Spain with neighbors; Lucia called on her lifelong friends. Without a second thought, they were waiting for us at the Perpignan Station – like they’d been twice a year ever since – to take my comatose, younger self into their loving arms.
         
It’s not a criticism of my aunt and her friends to admit that I haven’t gotten back all that I lost when my Father left me.  
Died.  
Was killed.  
Whatever.  
And, I don’t really expect to. Losing a parent isn’t something you heal from. Not really. The best analogy I’ve come across for what it feels like to be orphaned is how people feel when they’ve lost a limb. When they think it’s still there. When they can still feel it. War veterans and cancer victims have phantom limbs…I have phantom parents
         
And so, after all that Maggie and Tom have done for me, I guess I am sort of glad that my aunt moved my flight back a week. My Father’s death had come close to killing me…and Maggie, Tom, and my aunt Lucia, had come a long way toward putting me back together again.
Of course, the scars are still there, and even my best friend Tristan would agree that I’m not exactly normal. I forget things more than most, for example, but I see that as more of an acquired skill than a flaw. If I didn’t forget certain things…I’d probably be in an asylum or doped-up on a chemical cocktail of one sort or another.
What I do remember, whether I want to or not, is more of an omission, than an event.  
The nightmares are gone. Each and every one of them just disappeared – poof! – my first night in Spain, and so far, they’ve stayed disappeared. Which is saying something, given how they haunted my Father and I for months before…
I stop.  It’s no good thinking about my Father. Seeing his warm smile or hearing his voice, telling me stories about the love of his life. My Mother.  
“You look so much like her.” He’d say, in the darkness of early morning, as he’d braid or tie up my thick, unruly hair into whatever style was popular amongst the girls of whichever village was hosting us. No. Nothing good ever comes of thinking about those times. And it’s not just because I feel sad. It’s worse than that. When I think of my Father for too long…it leads to those frightening moments when I’m suddenly certain that my Father is still alive.  
That he is not gone.  
That I can still hear him.
         
Of course, when that happens, I remind myself that I am an orphan. And that both my Mother and my Father are dead. And then, I pray it is true.