Stained Glass Girl

My grandfather is a craftsman, always creating something or other.  I have heard fables my entire life of his homemade cinnamon rolls, though he hasn’t made any in over twenty years.  I have watched him in his woodworking shop, conducting masterpieces together out of simple wooden boards.  I have eaten the fruits of his garden, lovingly cultivated from the soil.  Many years ago, when my mother was growing up, he dabbled in stained glass.  For longer than I can remember, one of the brilliant results of that dabbling has hung in the north window of my family’s living room, a testament to the longevity of his creations.  He made it for my mother before she graduated high school and it has been a focal point in every home she’s had since then.

It is a simple thing, only about a foot tall with a minimal wooden frame.  Inside of that frame stands a young woman in an elegant blue gown and ivory gloves.  Her hair is sculpted into a knot on the back of her head and held fast with an austere gold-toned comb.  She is turned to look out the window, her right hand perched atop the back of a plush elegant chair and her left rests lightly on her hip.  Over one curling arm of the chair is draped a different, indistinct dress that meanders to the transparent wooden floor.  In the daytime, when light streams through the window, the colors are bright and vibrant.  As the sun starts to set, they become more opaque.  The woman’s dress shifts from a crisp cerulean to a soft navy while the one on the chair changes from periwinkle to delicate lavender.  The chair that is a rich pink in sunlight turns almost white as the sky darkens.  She is constantly shifting and changing, even as she remains permanently in her post.  The light tosses waves and casts shadows around her, but she is resolute.

This young woman has become a friend of sorts over the years.  When I was younger, I spent many a sick day lying on the couch and gazing at that woman, inventing her story.  While my mother fixed me a bowl of soup and a glass of ginger ale and watched a soap opera in the background, I would wonder intently at the stained glass girl.  I studied the way the back of her dress fell in a cascade of glass fabric about her shoulders.  My eyes traced the folds and twists of her hair, wondering if my mom could ever make mine look like that.  I soaked in every detail of those glass fragments and then I began to wonder about them.  Who is the girl gazing off to a place far beyond the yard that she faced?  Why is she there?  What is she doing?  And when I began asking questions, the eagerly creative little girl that I was found it impossible to resist finding answers for them.

It always seemed to me when I imagined that young woman’s story that she was not alone in the room, that someone outside of the frame had just entered, not quite disturbing the wistful thoughts of the girl in the beautiful gown.  Something outside her window had caught her attention and held it fixed as she looked on.  Perhaps it was a guest arriving for the ball that night, the one she had been nervous enough to change her dress for.  Earlier in the evening she had been wearing her old but beautiful lavender dress, but it was too safe.  For this ball, she would need to look absolutely stunning and so she had carefully unfolded the blue dress and slipped into it, still amazed at the luxury of the cloth that clung to her.  Maybe the person outside of the window was a handsome hero, glancing up to see her silhouetted by the hazy light of her room and falling in love at first sight.  Or perhaps she has already met her perfect suitor and he is the one behind her, patiently anticipating the moment she realizes he’s caught her in a day dream, but not wanting to give up the moment of watching her at peace just yet.  He loves to see her so quiet and lost in thought, so he leaves the roses he brought on her dressing table and slips out again.  But of course, the mystery person in the room could also be her exasperated mother standing there in the doorway, talking the poor girl’s ear off, trying desperately to convince her to just come downstairs and fraternize with their guests instead of standing defiantly up in her bedroom wasting away.  She argues that all of that finery is silly and pretentious, but secretly she knows she is looking forward to it.

Countless scenarios I played out in my mind for that young woman.  Some days, her posture was hopeful, some it was weary, others she looked powerful.  No matter what the placement of her hand or the stance of her shoulders exuded in the moment, she was always who I wanted to grow up to be.  She was a fairy tale dream that I wove for myself.  My head was stuck in the clouds and every book I read, every story I heard became a part of this world I constructed when I looked at the stained glass.  Every adventure she had, I was having right along with her.

That elusive young woman will likely spend as long as my parents live in that house staring out that exact window.  That’s okay with me.  That house is where I grew up outside of the fairy tales, each stage of my life passing underneath her sentinel presence.  I have grown and changed over the years and the young woman in the window became has become a completely new person several times over just as I have.  She grew up with me.  She grew up with my mother too, carrying the workmanship of my grandpa’s hands.  Perhaps one day a daughter of my own will get to grow up with the girl in the window.  Will get to question her mysteries and copy her posture.  For my grandfather’s sake and my mom’s and mine and for the girl in the window, I hope so.  For while she is forever a mystery, she is also forever a familiar comfort and a shard of home.

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In Transit

I’ve been seeing a phrase making the rounds on Pinterest and consequently general home decor lately.  You are here.  You. Are.  Here.

You are not a human in transit.  This time in your life is not merely the time between one era and another.  It is not a moment solely of anticipation, where right now is only comprised of anxious waiting for that one moment or that one achievement that will jumpstart your personhood again.

As a college student, this is something that I have to wrestle with on some level every day.  College is this really unrealistic lifestyle that exists within its own little bubble called campus.  You don’t really live on your own, but you definitely aren’t living with your parents.  You don’t have to cook for yourself if you don’t want to, but if you want to find groceries when you open the fridge, you have to buy them.  You are swaddled in an environment where you are free – and even encouraged – to develop your own opinions about life and make your own decisions about how you want to live your life.  And the cool part is that everyone else is sort of in the same boat, so there is an ephemeral community created simply by fitting into that class of humans that “real adults” are slightly worried about called college students.

As apt as college is to look like a movie scene (because it really does sometimes, it’s crazy), these two or three or four years, or seven years if you’re a medical student, are real life.  The time you spend in higher education is not a single-purpose way of taking you from being a child to an adult.  If that’s all that you are getting from college, you’re doing it wrong.

Your time as a student counts.

You are growing right now.  This very moment, you are learning and changing and that is a beautiful thing.  Don’t blink and let this undulation brush by.  Today you might make the closest friendship you will ever have.  Today might be the day that you come to understand where your passion lies and what you want to do in this world.  This moment could be the one where you touch the life of someone who you didn’t even know was listening.

If you laugh today, it is an important day.  If you cry, this day matters.  If you breathe, this moment is worth more than you can fathom.  Because you, not the person you will be when you graduate or the job you will get with your degree or the surname you will have when you’re married, you, right here right now, are alive.  And you are indescribably loved by your Creator.  And that makes you priceless.

So when you swing your legs out of bed, don’t ask Where do I see myself in five years? but What wonderful things are present in this moment?  How wonderful is this life?  Savor the way that your toes brush the floor and the curve of your ankle.  Revel in that groggy moment just before you gather the momentum to rub the sleep from your eyes and push your body up into a new day.  That, dear friends is you.  And you are here.

Welcome Home

Today was a big day.

Specifically, today was freshman move-in day at school.  Let me tell ya, that looks a whole lot different from the perspective of the second time around.  Where last year, I was nervous and frantic and panicky, this year I was bustling and excited and joyful.  Where last year I was confused, this year I was confident.  Where last year I was becoming a resident, this year I was becoming a resident assistant.

That’s right folks, I am an RA this year.  Which is kind of insane.

The past couple of weeks have been absolute madness, balancing training to become an RA with the actual responsibilities of already being one.  In all sincerity, there were more than a few moments when I was seriously concerned about what exactly I had gotten myself into.  I’m going to mess up.  I am kind of an awkward human being.  I don’t know all of my resident’s names and faces.  I feel underqualified.

But that’s not what God thinks.  He blessed me with an opportunity this year, and sometimes God’s opportunities can seem a little overwhelming.  I still am not sure I quite get the whole scope of what this position is, but I am here and that is not going to change.

Beyond the trepidation though, I am so inexpressibly excited to take on this role throughout the year.  Like I said, it is completely a God thing that I am in this place and I can say with absolute confidence that he is going to do great things with me this year.  That’s not a way of talking myself up or puffing out my chest, that’s complete assurance in the power of Jesus.  He put me in this position because this is where he is going to use me to grow the kingdom, and I could not be more grateful or more eager.

Even better, I get to do this with some of the most caring, inspiring, quirky, Godly, beautiful women I know.  I cannot imagine tackling this year with a better team than the seven other women I have.  They are phenomenal and beyond God using me in great ways this year, he will use them to accomplish incredible kingdom goals.

For weeks, being an RA has been my number one super duper top priority, but even through I was getting the opportunity to meet some of my (frankly fantastic) residents, it didn’t quite sink in until this morning that I am actually, really going to do this.

This morning, there was simply no way around that fact.  Bright and early, girls started pouring in the door, loaded with futons and fridges and a full spectrum of emotions.  Soon the hallways were mazes made of all sorts of treasures that would somehow get packed into the tiny rooms.

It was chaos.

And I loved it.

I have never in my life been this excited or cared this deeply for a whole pack of strangers.  One-hundred eleven new faces, new stories, new girls moved into the place that I call home and began to make it their home too.

That is why I’m here.  Because today I got to meet one incredible human after another.  And because not only did I get to meet them, but I get to help make this place the place where they can thrive.  I get to be a part of their lives and I can’t wait because they have already become a huge part of mine.  So I guess they really aren’t strangers anymore.

It’s easy enough to be  excited for the concept of my residents, but I had no way of knowing what they would actually be like when they got here.  They are better than I had even imagined.  I remember last year when I first moved in that I couldn’t seem to find a single unpleasant person on campus and I figured it was a part of what the school does, but each of my girls is just as friendly and sweet and unique as all of the people who have been on campus for a long time, so I know that though they are new, they are already blessings to this school long before we get the chance to return the favor.

My job today was to welcome these girls in and to help this place become their place.  But with every girl that I moved in or met, with every smile I shared, I felt them settling me into my home even more.  I have no doubt that this year is going to be a great one.

Tonight as I walked down the hallway, I heard voices behind almost every door.  Talking, laughing, bonding. It was the sound of this place coming completely alive again and by some crazy miracle, God has planted me right in the middle of it.

If you need anything to pray for today, thank God for such an abundant blessing in these girls.  Pray for our year, that we form strong, deep relationships with each other and with God.  Pray that we build.  That we are wise and joyful.  Pray that every day feels as big and as important as move-in day.  Because every day is.

Heal

This past week marked two years since I lost one of my closest friends to a disease called depression.  It is such a strange thought to realize how very much has happened since that day.  Looking back on it, everything is surrounded in sort of a hellish haze of uncertainty, grieving, and fear of losing others, but that time also seems like it happened to a different person in a different life.  Maybe it did.

After all of the chaos and sorrow of that year, several of my friends and I had almost a mantra that we used as a wearied and battle worn vestige of hope:

We have a God who knows how to heal.

Over and over again, I would tell myself this in order to get out of bed in the morning and drudge through my day.  We have a God who knows how to heal.  I clutched at it like a lifeline.  We have a God who knows how to heal.  It was never that I didn’t believe it, but I had to keep telling myself that because my only steadfast hope was the future.  At the time, life sucked.  I was living in a world where I had built so many walls of apathy that I could hardly even feel the pain, but I was miserable nonetheless.  The world was absolutely drained of color.  It wasn’t in greyscale, it was like a watercolor after a flood.  Like someone flushed a drain and all of the life, all of the color went with it.

But somehow, incomprehensibly that unrealistically resilient thing called hope stuck around.  We have a God who knows how to heal.  I knew that today was not going to be colorful again.  I knew that it wouldn’t be tomorrow, or the day after that, or the day after that.  But I had to keep telling myself the thing that I already knew, even if I didn’t understand it.  We have a God who knows how to heal.  One day, maybe weeks from now, maybe months, maybe years, it wouldn’t hurt so much to see the world in color again.  The future may have been far away, but there was still a future.  Little by little, each day would be a little less awful than the last until eventually I was living again.  Not just surviving, not just walking blindly though the day, not just keeping my head above the water, but really truly living.  That day wasn’t coming up soon, but it was coming, and that was a promise.

Let me say now, two full years later, that there is still a pretty enormous scar on my heart.  I am not fully mended.  Healing is a process, not an event.  And I will be going through that process for the rest of my life.  To what degree, I don’t know, but my heart will still carry the scar of that grief and all of the agony of the suicides will forever be a part of my life.  I will not be fully whole until Jesus returns and makes me new.

But let me also tell you this:  That we have a God who knows how to heal.  I’m sure you are getting sick of me saying it by now, but I cannot begin to stress the truth of that statement. I’ve been more or less okay for quite a long time now.  I know that’s a touchy word, but I really do mean it.  The world is definitely colorful and vibrant again and for that I am immensely grateful.  Life is joyful and I no longer spend every moment worrying that one more friend is right on the brink.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still bad days.  There are.  That doesn’t mean that my friends don’t still have days where they are in bad places.  They do.  But it’s not every day.  It’s not even often that I feel vaguely close to that place in my life anymore.  I am healing.

May thirteenth will always be an anniversary for me.  It will always matter.  And that’s okay.  Like I said, I will be a part of this healing process until the day that Jesus restores me to true humanity untainted by sorrow.

This particular May thirteenth I was expecting a rough day.  I know you should never anticipate bad days because the instant you think a day is going to be horrible than it will be, regardless of the circumstances, but that’s a tangent.  Whether or not it was a smart idea, I was expecting a bad day.  I wasn’t afraid of that fact; I just wanted to get through the day and get it over with so that I could go back to living life.

I woke up that morning and sent a message to some of my close friends on campus (none of whom, it should be noted, were ever actually involved in this situation at all, but who care about me and my well being nonetheless) and asked them to pray for me.  Without fail, every. single. one. replied assuring me that they would pray.  Several of them sought me out to give me a bear hug during the day too.  It is always, without fail, a spirit booster to know that other people are talking to the creator of the universe on your behalf.

The rest of the day was actually kind of the best.  I don’t remember the last time I laughed quite as hard as I did that day.  My time spent with Jesus was so refreshing and uplifting.  I had a good day in classes.  I was super productive with my homework, which mean that something in my brain which usually doesn’t function was going strong.  I had a ton of fun performing in an improv show.  Got to watch Harry Potter, which is always a plus.  I genuinely had a good day.

Better still, my friends from home seemed to be living and loving life.  I cannot even begin to describe what a joy it was to talk to them and see them having so much fun.  It was as if the whole world was starting to wake up from the nightmare.  Like the sun was finally bursting forth in all of its glory above the horizon.  And what a beautiful relief that brought with it.  Did I still think about the anniversary?  Oh yes.  Was I grieving?  No.  To be honest, I wasn’t.  And that’s okay.  My friend would love to know that he wasn’t causing me sadness.  I don’t have to remain sorrowful forever in order to remember.  That, my dear friends, is called healing.  And you know how that happens?  Because we have a God who knows how to heal.  Not only does he know how, but he does heal.  He is healing.  He is the very giver and creator of life and he restores it to its fullness in him.  What a beautiful blessing that is!

A friend asked me on that day if I needed to talk about anything and I told him that I was okay.  And I meant it.  That was the most remarkable thing.  Two years ago, I had to tell myself that healing was coming.  I had to force myself to believe that there would be a day when I could openly, freely, and genuinely love life again.  It was a struggle to make myself say it sometimes.  And yet, by the grace of God, I am there.  I am not healed, but I am so undeniably healing.

We have a God who knows how to heal.

It’s not a mantra that I have to say over and over in order to remind myself to believe  it anymore.  That phrase has become a praise to God because has done just that and continues to work healing in my life and in your life every moment of every day.  It is no longer a desperate lifeline that I am clutching for dear life, but an exuberant shout of delight in my miraculous God.

I don’t know where you are at in your life right now.  I don’t know what you are hurting from or what God is blessing you with, but I do know that your Great Physician is healing you in ways that you cannot know now or understand, but that will become the biggest blessings to you.  Whether or not it feels like it now, remind yourself that in every day, in every hour, in every moment of your sin-broken life you have a God who knows how to heal and who is working constantly specifically for you.  I don’t know about you, but I would say that is a far sight better than any bandaid, any medicine, or any healing that this world has to offer.  That, dearly beloved child of God, is life at its fullest.

Coffee Shop Musings

Hello friends!  It has come to my attention that, along with being World Down Syndrome Awareness Day and Holy Monday, it is also World Poetry day.  As I am a fan of poetry, I thought I’d post a little something for you that I wrote in a coffee shop a few weeks back.  Nothing too special, just a little poem I would like to share.

Enjoy!  And be sure to tell me in the comments what you think.

 

The music of a band of voices, conversations, events, progress

None distinct but all individual blends or aromatic concoctions

Not Bach or Sheeran or Lennon or Crosby, but inflections of each layered

Words are secondary to syllables brewed with the chinks of glasses

Percussion flutters in turning pages and tapping keys

A symphony in its own right crescendos and billows when the sun streaks in the windows

In reality it is too many symphonies to count, each listens to its own

Smooth going down, warm in the belly

Tongue and nose and eyes listen from the opera boxes

They use their glasses to spy on the others, but it is only a habit

They are content

And why shouldn’t they be? Surrounded with such luxury

It is a blessing that the song has no melody for indeed there are too many to count

Movement as though the very creature stirs in its sleep

Never enough to wake, but always to wonder if it might

Dance together with the captive audience as it so wishes to do

And they wish it too, for they are already dancing

February Review: Timeline

This month’s review is taking a rather different direction than last month, but my goal is to introduce you to as large of a variety of interests as possible.  That being said, February’s highlighted item is a card game called Timeline.  I was introduced to this game by a cousin at a family gathering when I walked out into the garage to find about four feet of itty bitty cards stretched out in a row.  Each card was an event in history and the string of cards was a timeline, hence the name.

Timeline Blog Highlight

The object of the game is to be the first player to get rid of all of your cards by correctly placing them in chronological order compared to the other cards that have already been played.  The concept is as simple as that, but the game itself is really just a catalyst for discussion and guesswork and a fair bit of learning along the way.

Conversation Starter:

If there is anything I love about this game, it is that there is never a loss for conversation.  And it isn’t the usual everyday sort of conversation that it inspires either.  Rather than politics or economics, gossip or confrontation, etc. Timeline sparks stories about history and culture.  How and why and when certain things came about.  What life would be like and must have been like without them.  For example: did you know that the trash bin wasn’t invented until 1875?  Can you even imagine life without them, because I can’t.  Or at least, I would rather not.

You get to listen to people tell stories about how they knew something or let them ramble on in what they hope is a right direction for an answer.  Sometimes, when there is nothing to do but guess, it comes down to a comical five-hundred year miss.  Which of course starts a whole new round of more common conversation we usually like to call smack talk.

How You Like It:

Timeline is not by any means a static game.  The whole point is that you can completely reconstruct it and, depending on your choices and the dealing of the cards, end up with an entirely new game every time you play.

One of the most obvious ways to vary it up is to use all sorts of different expansions and versions of the game.  There are all sorts of categories from Historical Events, to Inventions, to Music and Culture, to focused locales and global history.  You can mix them all together if you want to, or choose the oddest pairing or the one that nobody has a clue about, just for laughs.

If history is not your thing, you are not confined to a droning litany of who killed whom to start what war and prompt what invention.  You can make it into just a guessing game, because I can promise that even for history enthusiasts like myself, there is always at least an element of confusion to one degree or another.  And you can stick to the topics that are more interesting to you.  Like film?  There’s a set for that.  Want to up the ante for your trivia skills?  I promise, the “Diversity” set has all sorts of random knowledge that matters in exactly zero contexts for ordinary daily life.  The game is yours, through and through.

Challenge Balance:

As I mentioned, Timeline is a bit of a guessing game even for the proficients.  Because nobody in their right mind spends time learning when the baguette was invented.  But we are all pretty sure it happened after the appearance of dinosaurs.  That’s the thing: as the game progresses, those distinctions become more and more difficult to puzzle out as the gaps between dates close ranks crowded with more cards.

When the game starts, there is only one card beginning the timeline and you have a fifty-fifty shot at placing the next event.  Fast forward a few rounds and you are struggling to decide if it is a better mistake to play the card in a ten year gap or a hundred year gap.  By the end, it really is a challenge to squeeze the events into their neat little gaps.  But it isn’t the kind of challenge that makes you want to give up; it is the type that makes you want to try all the harder.

A Pretty Picture:

Part of the appeal of the game is the artwork on the cards.  They all have little drawings describing the events.  I have to admit that some of them are pretty strange and laughable, but they are certainly a point of entertainment.  You want to talk about a conversation starter, you should definitely check out the invention of the hairdryer.  That one is good for a laugh.

The Cons:

I have mentioned a couple of times that you don’t have to know anything about history to play this game.  However, you do need to have at least a smidgen of interest.  If you don’t care one jot, you will have probably about the same amount of fun playing it.  But, nothing can please everybody and I think all in all this game does a pretty decent job of appealing to most.

Overall, I love Timeline.  Hopefully you get the chance to try it out and love it too!  Let me know what you think in the comments and if you have anything else you want to see me review please let me know so that I can do that for ya.  Have a blessed day friends!

River of Time Final Installment

This is it lovely folks!  I finally finished the story.  Thank you to all of you who waited with baited breath for each new post and I hope that even though this particular story is finished, you will still come back and visit.  Let me know in the comments if you have any more ideas for stories or posts of any kind because I would love to give you things you love to read.

If you are lost, start at the beginning.

As always, these characters belong to the lovely Lisa Bergren.

Enjoy!

 

 

“T-time travel?” I stuttered.  “That’s a little extreme of a claim, isn’t it?”

“Not when it’s true.  The Forelli family died out forty years ago when Ben Forelli gave the estate to the city to be a museum.  Nobody in that family has been called Luca in a long time, since the time of kings and lords, to be precise.” Emiliana’s smug grin settled onto her face as she spoke.  “Therefore, you either picked that name up from the museum, which I have been assured you have never visited, or you got it the same place you got your archaic Italian.”

Nobody said anything for a moment.  I was still trying to process how she could possibly have figured out that much information about us in such a short amount of time.

“Now, as I mentioned earlier, I need to figure out what to do with you two.” Emiliana said slowly and deliberately.

“We have to go back to the tomb.” The words were out of Luca’s mouth before I could stop them.  I gasped and turned to see that his jaw was set in determination.

“Luca, we can’t – ” I started, but he cut me off.

“We have no choice Lia.  We have to trust her.  If we don’t, we won’t be able to get back to the tomb in time to meet your sister and we will be stranded here.”

“He’s right, you know.” Emiliana raised an expectant eyebrow at me.

“Alright, fine.” I conceded, realizing I was beaten.  Emiliana wouldn’t be able to prove anything once we were gone anyway, so as long as she let us go I couldn’t see any way for permanent harm.  But there was still something about her I couldn’t bring myself to trust.  “What sort of clever plan do you have to whisk us away?”

“The tomb.” Emiliana said, leaning forward eagerly and perching her elegant chin on her steepled fingers.  “What is the significance?  Is that how… how it happens?”

“Yes.” I hesitated.  “There are… handprints.  If my sister and I touch them at the same time, we…” I trailed off and waved my hands, not really sure how to explain the oddity of that tunnel.

“Your sister: where is she?” Emiliana queried.

“She’s at home.” Luca tried to sound flippant as he said it, but the slightest crack in his voice at the word home almost got me bawling out of frustration and longing.  Like a little child who desperately wants nothing more than the comfort of their mother’s arms.  And then I thought about my mother.  And my dad and Gabi and Marcello and little Fortino.

“How soon can we get there?” I interrupted Emiliana’s next question before I even realized that she had already been speaking.

“Lia, we can’t leave until Gabi’s hand is on the print too.” Luca gently reminded me.  His eyes were full of empathy and I knew I wasn’t going to make anything any easier by throwing a fit about it.

“You’ll come to my place.” Emiliana declared, springing regally off of the arm of the couch and grabbing her purse.

“Hold on a second, where are you going?” I asked, incredulous at her commanding attitude.

“We’re leaving.  Get your things.  There will be a car waiting downstairs for you in ten minutes.  Pack quickly.”  And with that, she was gone.

 

Emiliana lived in a mansion.  Which, I really shouldn’t be able to complain about seeing as I lived in a castle, but I had forgotten the full extent of modern finery.  The foyer alone was overwhelming.  High arching ceilings stretched above us with three delicate chandeliers draping gracefully from them.  The walls were covered in tapestries and the floors were actual bonafide marble.  Emiliana swept down the dainty, spindly staircase the instant we walked into the house and before I could process it, I was alone in my own personal suite, trying to make my meager suitcase fill the gigantic walk-in closet that was adjacent to my bedroom/living room and across from my luxurious bathroom with a fully functioning Jacuzzi.  I figured the next few days would be bearable if I could simply manage to relax and enjoy them.

“Knock knock!” Emiliana chirped jovially from the doorway.  She had been uncannily cheerful since we arrived and I still wasn’t quite sure what ulterior motive she had for it.  “I just came to see how you are settling in.”

“Just fine, thank you.”  I replied.

“I’m glad.  If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.” She seemed every bit the perfect hostess.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked her.  “Why did you feel the need to sniff us out and, and I don’t know take us in?  What’s the point?”

“Manero stole my father’s credit too.” Emiliana whispered intensely.  “He was on the hunt for you and I knew if he found you he would kidnap you and ship you off to somewhere foul and far away.  He would strip you of all funds, of your identity, of your ability to ever come back and possibly be a threat to his fame and fortune.  My father went missing thirteen years ago.  He wrote one letter, only ever one.  He has never been able to sneak another one through, but I know is trapped in some sort of slave labor in some desert in Lebanon.  If he’s still alive, anyway.  I had to do something that wouldn’t endanger him, but that would get under Manero’s skin.  He will never know what happened to you and your family and it will haunt him for the rest of his life, knowing that you might still be out there, planning revenge.  Paranoid fool.  He will waste a boat load of money on his search for you and the fact that he can’t control you will drive him mad.  And that will have to be my revenge.”  Her face was flushed and her perfect cheekbones were dripping with impassioned tears by the time she finished her speech.

We sat in silence for a minute as I absorbed everything that she had just said.  She certainly seemed to be telling the truth.  If she wasn’t it was a pretty darn convincing performance.

“Okay.” I said.

“Okay what?” She sniffed, all of a sudden regaining her composure and her overconfident air.

“Okay, I’ll trust you.”  I said. “But if you screw us over, please know that we are both trained in combat.  And we are determined to get home.”

“I know.  Thank you.” Emiliana said gravely, slipping out of the room.

“Emiliana, wait!” I called after her.

“Yes?” She poked her head back around the doorframe.

“How did you know I’m combat trained?” I asked.

“The famous She-Wolves of Siena.  You didn’t really think I hadn’t figured out who they were, did you?” She quirked an eyebrow at me and then was gone.

 

“This is it then.” Emiliana hugged me briefly before shaking Luca’s hand and closing his door to the cab.  “It has been great having you this week.  I hope you find the home that you are craving.” The last part she whispered to me through the open window with her characteristic smirk.

“Thank you Emiliana.  From the bottom of my heart, grazi.” I waved as the cab began the journey down the impossibly long and winding driveway and out to Castello Forelli.  He dropped us off at the museum and we lingered just long enough to be sure he was gone.  We snuck around the back and toward the tomb blessedly uninterrupted.

“Are you ready to be home?” Luca asked as we stepped into the cool, dark space.

“More than ready.” I smiled up at him and placed my hand on the wall.  It was warm and getting warmer all the time.  I felt Luca’s strong arm around me and then I collapsed into the expectant gaze of my sister.

Home at last.