"This plot successfully shines much needed light upon a subject few understand. He accomplished this without sacrificing entertainment, suspense and romance." from a Readers Favorite Review!
Fifteen year old Allison has been in foster homes most of her life until she is finally adopted, along with a younger foster sister, into a loving home in Laguna Beach, California. But her birth mother, who had given her up at birth, has decided she now wants Allison back. Extremely unstable and tortured with bipolar disorder, her birth mother begins to try and convince Allison to come live with her, finally resorting to the attempted murder of Allison's new mother. From Southern California to Washington State, Allison is introduced to a strange world she never knew existed. It is the world of her birth mother and her illness. Finally reunited with her adoptive family again, Allison understands why she was abandoned at birth, and why she is now such a very lucky girl.
Nikki was just getting ready to head home from her studio when she got the call. For the last few days she had sunk into a deep depression she couldn’t shake. When Alli told her she would be back on Friday and would be missing a few days of school, it was as though she had almost expected more bad news. “That’s fine. Not like I have much say in the matter, unless I call the police as your legal guardian but then that would screw up your little reunion. So just be safe and come back on time. And give me name, number, and an address for where you will be.” She paused. “I love you Allison and I want the best for you.”
“I know. I love you too. But I just have to do this thing and I hope you understand.” Allison told Nikki she would text the info later, said good bye, and walked back in to tell Andrea she would be going with her.
Andrea’s minivan was a vintage 1972 type 2 VW bus. She had spent thousands having it brought up to mint condition and once she got behind the wheel on the open road she was in her own world. She blasted the Beatles White Album from the stereo system so loud that she and Alli said very little to each other that evening as they drove up to Santa Cruz.
They got there about ten-thirty and Andrea turned off the engine and the lights as she coasted into the long gravel driveway of her parent’s home. “We are going to surprise them!” She remembered using this engine and lights off technique to sneak out of the house at night back when she still lived there. Now she beamed maniacally as she used the same technique to surprise her Mom and Dad. “Come on, but be quiet.”
They walked up to the front steps of the old brick, stone and log home that rested precariously on the edge of the mountain. They were at about 2000 feet elevation but the drop from where the home had been built thirty years earlier was only about 200 feet. It was supported by giant pine logs that had once been trees surrounding the property. They had been wedged into the rock to secure the back of the home and create a porch like edge overlooking the valley below. Andrea held her breath as she knocked on the door.
Her mother looked old and tired as she answered the door, saying “Andi, is that you?” as she looked at her daughter and the teenaged girl standing next to her.
“Yes Mom, it’s me. And this is your granddaughter, Allison. May we come in?” she asked in a kidding way as she walked in and gave her mother a hug.
Andrea walked in to the foyer and greeted her mother with a hug, followed by Allison doing the same thing. “Where’s Pop?” Andrea asked as she looked around the warm, cozy living room that brought back so many memories for her.
“He’s out back,” her mother responded.
“Out back?” Andrea asked, remembering nothing out back except the yard strewn with boulders that led up to the side of a mountain.
“Yes, he stays out there now.”
“What do you mean he stays out there?”
“In his hut. He built a little cottage last summer. It’s actually quite nice. He ran heat out there too so it's nice and comfortable for him.”
“I don’t understand. He sleeps out there too?” Andrea looked puzzled.
“Sometimes out, sometimes inside. Depends on his mood. He built himself kind of a mini observatory in the hut. The roof opens up a bit and he spends hours with his telescope staring at distant worlds.”
“Is he okay, Mom? I mean….”
“Yeah. He’s fine. Just loves looking at the stars.” Her mother pauses and glanced over at Allison.
“But we must bring him inside to meet his granddaughter!” She turned and began walking towards the rear of the home. Allison gave Andrea a puzzled look as they followed her into the kitchen. When Andrea’s mother walked out the kitchen door, Andrea and Allison stayed inside exchanging nervous glances.
“This feels kind of weird, Mom,” Allison said, just as Andrea’s father walked in through the kitchen door.
He was in his sixties and wore his gray hair down to his shoulders. He squinted and peered at the two of them as his bloodshot eyes got used to the light. He was wearing a bathrobe that was barely closed in the front and it appeared that he might have nothing on underneath the robe.
Allison moved closer to Andrea, fearfully putting her arm around her waist as she said, “Hello, Grandpa.”
“Hi Dad, how you doing?” Andrea broke away from Allison and gave the old man a hug.
“I’m real good,” he answered her. “And this is my granddaughter? What’s you name, hon?”
“I’m Alli.” She held out her hand. “It’s a real pleasure to meet you.”
Grandpa moved towards her, tightening the belt on his robe as he did so. He embraced her in a big hug. Allison was aware of a smell she had never smelled before as he held on to her tightly and kissed her on her ear while his head rested on her shoulder.
Freeing herself from his embrace she turned to her mother. “Where is our room, Mom? I’m feeling kind of tired.”
“Nonsense,” said her Grandmom. “I need to catch up. I’ll make coffee.”
“I’ll stay up with you Mom,” said Andrea. “Alli you can go bed down if you want to, if you are really that tired.”
“Thanks Mom.” Alli stood nervously waiting for someone to give her directions to the bedroom.
Andrea moved towards her and held her hand. “Let me show you my old bedroom. We’ll sleep in there.”
Saying goodnight to her grandparents Alli followed her Mom down the hall to the bedroom. There were psychedelic posters on the walls and the room had a double bed. One window looked out over the front yard and Andrea pulled the curtain shut and turned on the bedside table lamp. “Now you get comfortable. The bathroom is right across the hall and I’ll go get our bags from the van. Be right back.”
Alli stared at the posters and then walked into the bathroom to wash her face. As she looked at herself in the mirror she wished she was back at home with Nikki and Jamie. Standing in the bathroom doorway, it struck her that this was the house she was born in. Her mother had explained that a midwife had come and helped with the delivery. She walked back into the bedroom. Was this the room where she first took a breath?
She heard coughing and a rough voice from down the hall asking, “Where did our girl go to now? She can’t be turning in already.” It was Grandpa.
Looking back into the bedroom and walking in towards the bed, Allison began to feel lightheaded. She wanted to call Nikki. Something didn’t feel right here and she wanted to go home.
Just as she pulled her cell phone out of her pocket, her mother walked into the room. “What are you doing in here, Allison? Grandpa wants to see you. Can you come on out for just a few minutes before you turn in?”
Allison told her she would be right out and Andrea walked back towards the kitchen. Then she quickly opened up her phone and called Nikki, who answered on the second ring.
“Allison, are you okay?” Just hearing Nikki’s voice made her feel so much better.
“I miss you guys.” Allison hesitated before continuing. “And I want to come home.”
“You are at your grandparent’s house in Santa Cruz, correct?” Nikki asked.
“And can you get me the street address?” Nikki was methodical. “Tell them you need to get something out of the car and get me the address from the front of the house.”
Allison was staring at a small desk in the corner of the room as she spoke with Nikki. A stack of mail was on the edge of the desk. She stood up and walked over to get an envelope and read the address to Nikki. “227 Holly Ridge Way, Santa Cruz.”
Just as she set the envelope back down again she heard Andrea coming back down the hall. Nikki told her she would be there in the morning to pick her up and she would call her before she pulled up.
“Are you coming out to visit with Grandpa or not?” Andrea sounded like this was going to be a truly fun thing to do.
“I’m coming.” Allison put the phone back in her pocket and followed Andrea back to the kitchen. Grandpa sat on a straight backed kitchen chair, his robe cracked open just enough to show too much.
“Come give your Grandpa a hug.” He held his arms out and waited for her to come to him.
Slowly and reluctantly she walked across the room and gave him a hug without coming too close to his body, which still had a foul smell to it, as though he hadn’t bathed in a while.
Andrea took the lead in starting the conversation. “So, Dad, you built yourself an observatory? You have a passion for stargazing all of a sudden?”
Grandpa scratched himself as he answered. “Astronomy. I love it. Bought the scope online and made the adjustments to the hut so I could slide back the roof and stay warm while I observed.” He stood up and tightened his robe. “Come on, both of you. I’ll show you. Saturn is out tonight.” He walked towards the back door and they all followed.
The cottage, or “hut”, was big enough for the four of them as long as they all sat on the bed. Grandpa sat on a barstool below the telescope and lined it up for them to see. “Come here Allison. You take the first look.” He grinned like a young boy as he spoke to her.
Allison stood up and walked over to the telescope and Grandpa climbed off the stool and patted it to indicate she should sit down on it. As soon as she placed her eye in front of the eyepiece, a radiant Saturn and its rings were floating majestically in the center of the lens. She had never seen anything like it. It was so beautiful. She watched as she heard the soft hum of the telescope’s motor gently turn to keep the planet in its field of view. This was indeed quite a setup her grandfather had, she thought to herself, just as she felt his hand come to rest on her back.
It was dark in the hut and Andrea and her mother could not see much as they waited for their turn at the telescope, but Allison could feel Grandpa’s hand as it softly made its way around her side and brushed up against her left breast. She turned immediately to the right and hopped off the stool as she said, “Now I am ready for bed. That was really, really cool Grandpa.” She walked out the door of the hut and back inside the house and headed straight for her bedroom, where she climbed under the covers and tried to fall asleep, clutching her cell phone in the palm of her hand.
She was awakened six hours later by the vibrating of her phone still clutched tightly in her hand. Nikki would be pulling up in five minutes. Allison realized her mother was not in bed with her. Maybe she had gotten up earlier, or maybe she had slept on the couch. Anyway, Allison jumped out of bed and quietly made it to the bathroom. It was about 6AM and she couldn’t hear that anyone else awake as she quietly washed her face and toweled off. She knew she should tell her mother she was leaving but she didn’t want to cause a scene. She would call from the road.
She walked out the front door quietly and walked down towards the street just as she saw the headlights of Nikki’s car turn on to her street. Nikki pulled up quietly and turned off her lights as soon as she saw Allison. The sun was starting to rise and she didn’t really need the lights to see anymore.
Allison ran around to the passenger side and got in. Jamie was asleep in the back seat. She hugged Nikki and said, “Let’s just go. Hurry, before she comes out here.”
They pulled away quietly and Allison began to tell Nikki about Grandpa and how weird everything had been the night before. She thanked her for driving up to get her, asking, “How come Dobs didn’t come along?”
“I left as soon as we hung up. No time to get him. We’ll see him later today. He was very concerned about you when I told him you had called.” Nikki yawned.
“Let me drive for while so you can sleep?” Allison suggested, even though she had only recently received her learner’s permit.
“Sounds wonderful,” said Nikki as she pulled over to the side of the road. “I need to close my eyes. Just keep going south on this highway and wake me up in an hour and please, do not speed. Thank you. And I love you.”
Allison adjusted the seat and sent a short text message to Andrea to let her know she was okay and on her way back home. She turned of her cell phone and slowly pulled back on to the highway just as she saw Nikki closing her eyes. Allison said, “I love you too, Nikki.”