Poor Joe-Joe, tall, thin, and handsome in an Italian sort of way, though visibly
rattled by a long ride trapped in a car with two eccentric women, was inching along at the
rear; eyes darting, looking scared to death someone would find him out and throw a net
over him.
Alexander and I were waiting on our sofa in the corner and he saw them first.
“That has got to be them,” he said, grinning. “Thanks to your vivid descriptions I could
have picked them out if they were hiding in the last row at Madison Square Garden.”
“That parking lot is much too far away from the hospital for people with heart
conditions,” Mah complained to the head nurse who looked unimpressed by the news
flash. “What on earth are you people thinking? Do you need new patients? Is that it? Is
there some sort of patient quota you have to fill by the end of visiting day?”
I hurried up to my little family. “I’m so glad you’re here!” I said, hugging Mah
and then Joe-Joe; saving Gram for last.
We hugged hard and Gram said, “Well, you look normal enough to me.”

Page 2.

“You can’t go by looks, Gram,” I said, “You should know that.”
Joe-Joe laughed. “Are you O.K., Sun? Bull told us a bunch of shit about you
being totally nuts and trying to kill yourself. What’s with him? He’s always been a liar,
but this is going too far.”
I looked up into Joe-Joe’s sensitive brown eyes. “You know what they say about
a good rumor, Joe-Joe, it has to have at least a kernel of truth to it.” I took a shaky breath.
“I’ve been depressed and anxious lately…I found out Bull is still seeing Teri and the both
of them are involved in some kind of illegal business with the Mafia. He’s been keeping
me away from you guys and all my friends and so…I actually did kind of lose it. The
short version is I took a gun from his collection, stared down the barrel, and then fired it
into the bedroom ceiling.”
“So what’s the big panic about? That’s a pretty typical day in this family,” Joe-Joe
said, and we took off in shouts of laughter; using humor to smooth over the sharp and
dangerous edges of our crazy lives. I was so glad and grateful to see him, I gave him
another hug.
Joe-Joe took a seat in the nearest chair at one of the visiting tables, and ran his
fingers through his wavy, black hair. “I mean, what does he really have to complain
about? It’s not as if you shot his ball off, which might have been an even better idea.”

2nd. Excerpt
On the wagon train:

For the first time in weeks, I took my evening meal alone and then walked toward
the end of the line of wagons to where Bruin and the reverend were camped. I was
hoping they would be sitting together in front of the campfire and would be glad of my
company. That was the worst part about being alone in the world…the end of the day.
There was no cheerful papa beside my solitary fire to laugh with, to share with.
On this particular evening Bruin wasn’t there, but the reverend sat before the
bright flames of his fire reading from one of his many books. I approached with mixed
emotions, for he looked content, sitting alone, reading to himself.
The look on his face when he first saw me quieted my doubts in coming. “Miss
Jessamyn,” he said, standing, “sit with me…perhaps you’d grace this quiet evening with
a reading. I’ve grown quite tired of the silence.”
Restless, I hesitated to accept the seat he offered me. “I’d actually rather walk for
a bit.”
“Would you join me?”
Together we walked along the road, ahead of the wagons, westward into the dim
beginnings of another night. The sky was cloudy up ahead and the brilliant apricot and
mandarin-orange sky peeked through the dark design of smoky storm clouds.
“I love a sky like this,” I said, “I’d like to capture it on canvas.”
“Painting is a hobby of yours, is it, Miss J-Jessamyn?”
“It is far from a hobby, it is my life.”
“It won’t be easy to find the time to paint if you must occupy so much of your
time earning a living in Marietta,” he said.

Page 3.

I shivered in a sudden chill and sense of dread at the very thought. I nodded.
“Where is Bruin?” I asked.
“Miss Cassie Taylor came by to speak to him just as we were finishing our supper,
and I believe they went for a walk as well.”
Cassie Taylor! Was Bruin such a fool as to be flattered by her attention? Any male
would do for the likes of Cassie Taylor! He’d learn that soon enough.
“Come Reverend,” I coaxed, reaching for his hand, “Let’s be adventurous and
leave the road. I want to see what the river looks like in this light.”
The reverend’s smile was unselfconscious and very pleasant. His wispy hair rose
in the breeze and fell across his broad forehead as I practically dragged him through the
tall grass toward the stand of pines that lined the long steep slope down to the river.
We stood side by side. I leaned back against the wide, gnarled trunk of an ancient
pine and drank in the impact of the scene below us. The river was blue-green with
flashes of gold glinting off in the slanting light. We could smell the fresh water, even
from this height and the massive mounds of land that snaked along beside the water were
rich in shades of green and brown.
It was exhilarating sight, but my light heart was soon weighed heavily with deep
sadness. This was the day my papa had longed to see. He had counted on it for his brave
new start; his desperate dream of a transformed life in a new land.
“Papa,” I whispered, as tears sprang to the surface, and mortified, I turned away
from the reverend to the comfort of the thick, sturdy tree trunk, and sobbed.
“M-Miss Jessamyn,” he said in a startled voice, “You mustn’t trouble yourself…”
He reached out for me and pulled me into his arms.
I clutched at him like a child and sobbed until I could cry no more.
“Your tears break my heart, Child,” he said, his voice a soft breath that tickled the
top of my head. “Please don’t be afraid of the future. I promise to take care of you.”
I pulled away from his embrace and stared up into his lucid, intelligent gray eyes,
gone soft and darker with feeling. “You must not concern yourself with me, Reverend, I
come from strong stock and I shall survive.”
His voice changed as anguish filled his eyes along with a few tears. “I can’t stand
by and watch you bear your pain alone,” he said, rubbing my arms with his smooth, long
fingered hands. “You need not suffer…and you shall not suffer since it is within my
power to save you. “Marry me, sweet Jessamyn…let me be your strength and your
family. Let me give you a life rich with all the comforts you deserve. My home is
large…two stories with spacious rooms…Mrs. Less, my housekeeper, would see to most
of the daily tasks.”
He stepped closer to me and I gasped, clutching my throat, startled at the drum
beat of my own pulse. The weight of his words lay like a fallen pine across my chest and
I felt in danger of smothering.
His eyes bore into mine, asking for an answer. “You would be free to paint,
Jessamyn; to paint all day, every day. I would ask very l-little of you…” He paused,
blushing as he gazed down at his hands, as if realizing for the first time that he held me
fast in a caressing grasp that frightened me even more than his confusing tumble of
unbidden words.

Page 4.

“Forgive me,” he said, a sob in his whisper, as he dropped his hands and turned
toward the view below. “I know I have shocked you, Child. Forgive me; I spoke
impulsively…but from my heart.”
The sound of the birds circling among the tall trees overhead was nearly
deafening to me as all of my senses were intensified and the forest echoed with excesses
of sound, color, and most of all, emotion. I felt weak, as if I’d fall to my knees if I were
not careful to lean back against the comforting bulk of the tree.