Authors: Colleen Houck
Tags: #Adventure, #Mystery, #Fantasy, #Young Adult, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Magic, #Urban Fantasy
For my husband, Brad—proof that
there really are guys like that out there.
the loom of time
Man’s life is laid in the loom of time
To a pattern he does not see,
While the weavers work and the shuttles fly
Till the dawn of eternity.
Some shuttles are filled with silver threads
And some with threads of gold,
While often but the darker hues
Are all that they may hold.
But the weaver watches with skillful eye
Each shuttle fly to and fro,
And sees the pattern so deftly wrought
As the loom moves sure and slow.
God surely planned the pattern:
Each thread, the dark and fair,
Is chosen by His master skill
And placed in the web with care.
He only knows its beauty,
And guides the shuttles which hold
The threads so unattractive,
As well as the threads of gold.
Not till each loom is silent,
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God reveal the pattern
And explain the reason why
The dark threads were as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
For the pattern which He planned.
clung to the leather seat and felt my heart fall as the private plane rose into the sky, streaking away from India. If I took off my seatbelt, I was sure I would sink right through the floor and drop thousands of feet, freefalling to the jungles below. Only then would I feel right again. I had left my heart in India; I could feel it missing. All that was left of me was a hollowed-out shell, numb and empty.
The worst part was . . . I did this to myself.
How was it possible that I had fallen in love? And with someone so . . . complicated? The past few months had flown by. Somehow, I had gone from working at a circus to traveling to India with a tiger—who turned out to be an Indian prince—to battling immortal creatures to trying to piece together a lost prophecy. Now, my adventure was all over, and I was alone.
It was hard to believe just a few minutes ago I had said good-bye to Mr. Kadam. He hadn’t said much. He had just gently patted my back as I’d hugged him hard, not letting go. Finally, Mr. Kadam pried my arms from the vise I’d locked him in, muttered some reassurances, and turned me over to his great-great-great granddaughter, Nilima.
Thankfully, Nilima left me alone on the plane. I didn’t want anyone’s company. She brought lunch, but I couldn’t even think about eating. I’m sure it was delicious, but I felt like I was skirting the edge of a pit of quicksand. Any second, I could be sucked down into an abyss of despair. The last thing I wanted was food. I felt spent and lifeless, like crumpled-up wrapping paper after Christmas.
Nilima removed the meal and tried to tempt me with my favorite drink—ice-cold lemon water, but I left it on the table. I stared at the glass for who knows how long, watching the moisture bead on the outside and slowly dribble down, pooling around the bottom.
I tried to sleep, to forget about everything for at least a few hours— but the dark, peaceful oblivion eluded me. Thoughts of my white tiger and the centuries-old curse that trapped him raced through my mind as I stared into space. I looked at Mr. Kadam’s empty seat across from me, glanced out the window, or watched a blinking light on the wall. I gazed at my hand now and then, tracing over the spot where Phet’s henna design lay unseen.
Nilima returned with an MP3 player full of thousands of songs. Several were by Indian musicians, but most of them were by Americans. I scrolled through to find the saddest breakup songs on it. Putting the plugs in my ears, I selected
I unzipped my backpack to retrieve my grandmother’s quilt, only then remembering that I had wrapped Fanindra inside it. Pulling back the edges of the quilt, I spied the golden serpent, a gift from the goddess Durga herself, and set it next to me on the armrest. The enchanted piece of jewelry was in a coil, resting: or at least I assumed she was. Rubbing her smooth, golden head, I whispered, “You’re all I’ve got now.”
Spreading the quilt over my legs, I leaned back in the reclined chair, stared at the ceiling of the airplane, and listened to a song called “One Last Cry.” Keeping the volume soft and low, I placed Fanindra on my lap and stroked her gleaming coils. The green glow of the snake’s jeweled eyes softly illuminated the plane’s cabin and comforted me as the music filled the empty place in my soul.
he plane finally landed several mind-numbing hours later at the airport in Portland, Oregon. When my feet hit the tarmac, I shifted my gaze from the terminal to the gray, overcast sky. I closed my eyes and let the cool breeze blow over me. It carried the smell of the forest. A soft, dewy sprinkle settled on my bare arms from what must have been a recent rain. It felt good to be home.
Taking a deep breath, I felt Oregon center me. I was a part of this place, and it was a part of me. I belonged here. It was where I grew up and spent my whole life. My roots were here. My parents and grandma were buried here. Oregon welcomed me like a beloved child, enfolded me in her cool arms, shushed my turbulent thoughts, and promised peace through her whispering pines.
Nilima had followed me down the steps and waited quietly while I absorbed the familiar environment. I heard the hum of a fast engine, and a cobalt blue convertible pulled around the corner. The sleek sports car was the exact color of
Mr. Kadam must have arranged for the car.
I rolled my eyes at his expensive taste. Mr. Kadam thought of every last detail—and he always did it in style.
At least the car’s a rental,
I stowed my bags in the trunk and read the name on the back: Porsche Boxster RS 60 Spyder. I shook my head and muttered, “Holy cow, Mr. Kadam, I would have been just as happy to take the shuttle back to Salem.”
“What?” Nilima asked politely.
“Nothing. I’m just glad to be home.”
I closed the trunk and sank down into the two-toned blue and gray leather seat. We drove in silence. Nilima knew exactly where she was going, so I didn’t even bother giving her directions. I just leaned my head back and watched the sky and the green landscape zip by.
Cars full of teenage boys passed us. They whistled, admiring either Nilima’s exotic beauty and long, dark hair flying in the wind or the nice car. I’m not sure which inspired the catcalls, but I knew they weren’t for me. I wore my standard T-shirt, tennis shoes, and jeans. Wisps of my golden-brown hair tangled about my loose braid and whipped at my brown, red-rimmed eyes and tear-streaked face. Older men cruised past us slowly too. They didn’t whistle, but they definitely enjoyed the view. Nilima just ignored them, and I tuned them out, thinking,
I must look as awful as I feel.
When we entered downtown Salem, we passed the Marion Street Bridge that would have taken us over the Willamette River and onto Highway 22 heading for the farmlands of Monmouth and Dallas. I tried to tell Nilima she missed a turn, but she merely shrugged and said we were taking a short cut.
“Sure,” I said sarcastically, “what’s another few minutes on a trip that has lasted for days?”
Nilima tossed her beautiful hair, smiled at me, and kept driving, maneuvering into the traffic headed for South Salem. I’d never been this way before. It was definitely the long way to Dallas.
Nilima drove toward a large hill that was covered with forest. We wound our way slowly up the beautiful tree-lined road for several miles. I saw dirt roads leading into the trees. Houses poked through the forest here and there, but the area was largely untouched. I was surprised that the city hadn’t annexed it and started building there. It was quite lovely.
Slowing down, Nilima turned onto a private road and followed it even higher up the hill. Although we passed a few other winding driveways, I didn’t see any houses. At the end of the road, we stopped in front of a duplex that was nestled in the middle of the pine forest.
Both sides of the duplex were mirror images of each other. Each had two floors with a garage and a small, shared courtyard. Each had a large bay window that looked out over the trees. The wood siding was painted cedar brown and midnight green, and the roof was covered with grayish-green shingles. In a way, it resembled a ski cabin.
Nilima glided smoothly into the garage and stopped the car. “We’re home,” she announced.
“Home? What do you mean? Aren’t we going to my foster parents’ house?” I asked, even more confused than I already was.
Nilima smiled understandingly. She told me gently, “No. This is your house.”
“My house? What are you talking about? I live in Dallas. Who lives here?”
“You do. Come inside and I’ll explain.”
We walked through a laundry room into the kitchen, which was small but had lemon-yellow curtains, brand new stainless-steel appliances, and walls decorated with lemon stencils. Nilima grabbed a couple of bottles of diet cola from the fridge.
I plopped my backpack down and said, “Okay, Nilima, now tell me what’s going on.”
She ignored my question. Instead, she offered me a soda, which I declined, and then told me to follow her.
Sighing, I slipped off my tennis shoes so I wouldn’t mess up the duplex’s plush carpeting and followed her to the small but cute living room. We sat on a beautiful chestnut leather sofa. A tall library cabinet full of classic hardbound books that probably cost a fortune beckoned invitingly from the corner, while a sunny window and a large, flat-screen television mounted above a polished cabinet also vied for my attention.
Nilima began rifling through papers left on a coffee table.
“Kelsey,” she began. “This house is yours. It’s part of the payment for your work in India this summer.”
“It’s not like I was really working, Nilima.”
“What you did was the most vital work of all. You accomplished much more than any of us even hoped. We all owe you a great debt, and this is a small way to reward your efforts. You’ve overcome tremendous obstacles and almost lost your life. We are all very grateful.”
Embarrassed, I teased, “Well, now that you put it that way—wait! You said this house is
of my payment? You mean there’s more?”
With a nod of her head, Nilima said, “Yes.”
“No. I really can’t accept this gift. An entire house is way too much—never mind anything else. It’s much more than we agreed on. I just wanted some money to pay for books for school. He shouldn’t do this.”
“Kelsey, he insisted.”
“Well, he will have to un-insist. This is too much, Nilima.
She sighed and looked at my face, which was set with steely determination. “He really wants you to have it, Kelsey. It will make him happy.”
“Well, it’s impractical! How does he expect me to catch the bus to school from here? I plan to enroll in college now that I’m back home, and this location isn’t exactly close to any bus routes.”
Nilima gave me a puzzled expression. “What do you mean catch the bus? I guess if you really want to ride the bus, you could drive down to the bus station.”
“Drive down to the bus station? That doesn’t make any sense.”
aren’t making any sense. Why don’t you just drive your car to school?”
“My car? What car?”
“The one in the garage, of course.”
“The one in the. . . .
. You have
to be kidding me!”
“No. I’m not kidding. The Porsche is for you.”
Oh, no, it’s not!
Do you know how much that car costs? No way!”
I pulled out my cell phone and searched for Mr. Kadam’s phone number. Right before I pressed
, I thought of something that stopped me in my tracks. “Is there anything else I should know?”
Nilima winced. “Well . . . he also took the liberty of signing you up at Western Oregon University. Your classes and books have already been paid for. Your books are on the counter next to your list of classes, a Western Wolf sweatshirt, and a map of the campus.”
“He signed me up for WOU?” I asked, incredulous. “I’d been planning on attending the local community college and working—not attending
“He must have thought a university would be more to your liking. You start classes next week. As far as working goes, you may if you wish, but it will be unnecessary. He has also set up a bank account for you. Your new bank card is on the counter. Don’t forget to endorse it on the back.”
I swallowed. “And . . . uh . . . exactly how much money is in that bank account?”
Nilima shrugged. “I have no idea, but I’m sure it’s enough to cover your living expenses. Of course, none of your bills will be sent here. Everything will be mailed straight to an accountant. The house and the car are paid for, as well as all of your college expenses.”