[BookStrand Paranormal Romantic Suspense]
When Franchesca Pearl falls for the ever-capable Lathan Davidson, carnal instincts preside over future rapture. Upon finding the memoirs of a stranger, written in 1962, she and Lathan embark on a journey to rid Shelbyville of a curse that plagued the besieged populace for over two centuries.
The Memoirs bespeak of a golden-tongued ladies' man, a rake with whom women should err on the side of caution. His spirit furtively traverses hallow ground, awaiting the heir of the one who impassioned him from dusk till dawn - the only one who can eradicate the curse that masquerades his immortal soul.
Francesca and Lathan delve into the past while history unleashes a slew of events that ensue their every move. Lathan vows to follow Francesca to Hell and back, an avowal that finds the lovers in purgatory. Together they attest a bygone era but must separately face the iniquities shorn of eternal renewal.
"The Resident bespeaks of passionate desires not readily shared with family or strangers along the brimming streets of life. The human soul confesses only what the mind perceives as guarded while the heart covets what the soul denies. The Resident is special because it speaks directly to the human soul, rendering each journey unique within the hearts of its readers." ~Susan~
A BookStrand Mainstream Romance
My name is Franchesca Pearl and my story, though highly eccentric, began long before I was ever born. My mother, Fanessa, died giving birth to me. As I wailed my first breath, she adoringly whispered her last. My father, Sheldon, took her death as hard as any grieving husband would. A highly distinguished historian, he withdrew from his labor of love. My older sister, Shelly, described that he eventually succumbed to the demons drowning out the angst that waged war within his very soul with the scent of whiskey on his breath. She said I was born deaf, you see, and my mother’s passing, coupled with the special needs of a physically challenged child, took everything he had left to give. Whiskey then filled the void.
I felt the shame his eyes seared into my flesh early on. I could no more hide from those eyes as he could battle the feelings that my presence invoked. Consequently, we each did our best to stay clear of one another. I knew on some coherent level that he blamed me for mother’s death and, therefore, could not possibly love me outwardly. Whether he held anything for me within his grieving heart, I shall never know. I barely knew him, but Shelly was always there to comfort my childish fears.
She alone taught me how to sign and, having no formal training, we learned together. It was a nightly ritual shared between two sisters. Oh, the conversations we held with our hands still amazes me today. She was the only mother I ever knew and remained my only friend.
On the eve of her Senior Prom, Shelly conveyed that she and Gregory, her boyfriend, were to be married. Looking back, I can still remember as though she signed it yesterday. My ears heard nothing, but my heart felt immense joy beyond conveyances.
“Just think of it, Franchesca,” she signed with overflowing eyes. “Gregory is to become a doctor, and you will one day be the little Princess on the hill.”
“What do you mean?” I signed.
“Oh, my sweet Franchesca,” she replied with tender eyes that captured my inquisitive gaze, “you are my family, and what is mine will always be yours. I wish to take you with me, far away from father’s neglectful and contemptuous eyes. I wish you to attend the university and seek whatever it is that your heart desires. Say you’ll come with me.”
I liked Gregory. He was kind and gentle. His sister, Grace, was also deaf. Oh, did he love to tell me stories. Most were about Grace. Though I never met Grace, I felt like I knew her. I liked the way her name rolled from his fingertips. It’s hard to explain how I felt. Shelly wanted me to come and live with her and the man she loved. And the man she loved happened to adore me as well.
Huddled in the living room, as close as two sisters could possibly be, we embraced the spirit found within one another. She saw me as a human being and not as the poor, illiterate deaf girl who resided down the street like the neighbors viewed me. Shelly diligently worked hard each night to teach me how to read and write but fell short. Believing myself incapable of learning such things, I simply gave up, but she never once gave up on me.
There, in the middle of our father’s dingy apartment, she managed to make my future bright, and I knew that her guiding light would forever burn within my heart. My tears flowed unto her beautiful, pink satin gown, but she refused to let go, so I held on for dear life. I felt the love in her warm embrace, the kindness in her gently sweeping brow, and the compassion in her graceful smile. She left later that night with my best wishes for her undying happiness. I imagined them dancing away the night, footloose and fancy free. At moments, I felt my heart drift away to a meadow in the sky.
Having lived in the city my entire life, I yearned for vast meadows encompassed by nature and surrounded by beautiful wild flowers. The only flowers I ever saw were the ones that Gregory gave to Shelly. She’d always pluck one from the bountiful bouquet and place its long stem behind my ear. I’d stare at my reflection for hours and prance to and fro, pretending I was a glittery fairy in the elfin world. My mother was the elfin queen and my father was the elfin king. As the elfin princess, within this elfin world, I possessed large ears that could hear the faintest elfin laughter. Slumber eventually found me as I perched high atop a tree and nestled into a leafy cot.
I awoke to a man towering over me and I’m certain the shrill of terror that escaped my lips surely deafened his ears. A woman slowly approached and, after pausing to observe the charred carpeting, attempted to calm me but I was inconsolable. They spoke back and forth to one another, but I knew not what they said and lunged forth to attain freedom. They restrained me and forced me from my home like a wild vagrant. I knew not what transpired their actions. I found myself in a group home surrounded by other children who treated me cruelly out of fear and dejection. Though I couldn’t hear their proverbial quips, I felt their mockery and retreated to the elfin world where I was the perfect princess with pink glittery wings and a pouch full of pixy dust ready to flutter away.
That very afternoon an interpreter arrived and, taking me from the unruly scope of the others, attentively made me feel comfortable. She had dark ringlets softly sweeping over her brow and dark framed glasses, which accentuated her high cheekbones.
“I’m sorry they brought you here,” she signed slowly.
I, however, remained unresponsive.
“Do you know why you are here?”
Again, my hands lay languid in my lap.
“My name is Grace, and I too am deaf.”
I watched her hands in awe and quickly responded, “Why has my sister not come for me?”
Grace, after a moment of respite, proceeded to explain with shaky hands. What followed made me cry out in a fit of rage that I could not control. It was there, in a group home for misfits that I discovered Shelly and her fiancée had been struck and killed by a drunk driver on their way home from the prom. The culprit behind the wheel of the wavering vehicle was none other than my father, who also perished on scene. My entire family left me in a single bound, and I felt isolated and alone.
Grace, craving a child of her own, held me all afternoon. I filled her childless void with childlike fantasies, and she filled my motherly void with maternal affections I once only experienced with Shelly. I went to live with Grace and her husband, who accepted me with open arms. Grace understood me and helped me realize that the world didn’t place restrictions over my handicap, that I mentally placed restrictions upon myself. She taught me to believe in my capabilities and strengthen my other senses. The pain left in the wake of Shelly’s death soon faded into a new epoch as days turned into months. I was barely seven and yearned for a family. Grace wished to adopt me, but the systematic red tape had other plans.
On the eve of my eighth birthday, the Department of Child Welfare separated Grace and I and sent me to live in another city with another family who quickly came to despise my handicaps. I was angry and aggrieved, punished from birth. God chose to welcome my mother home to his eternal paradise before she even got to hold me. He then took my sister from me, along with my father, and even had the gall to take Grace away. I hated everything about the earthly realm and withdrew, never to sign again or express myself as a human being.
I went through six more foster homes until I was too mature to be wanted by a prominent family. The fourth couple I stayed with did try to bridge the gap, but I was incapable of loving myself let alone a pair of strangers. I then lived in one group home after another in a silent world left to my own devices. Still illiterate, I was forced to leave on my eighteenth birthday. Bound for Kentucky, the director handed me an envelope before signing that a man would greet me upon arrival, but I refused to signal that I understood. I left the group home with a manila folder tucked under my arm and a one-way ticket to Kentwood, Kentucky. I entered a vortex of emotions I never thought possible.
I felt certain the manila folder held the key to a past that unlocked a future I no longer controlled. I could never forget Shelly, but I could no longer recall the names of my grandparents. There I sat aback a Greyhound bus looking at foreign symbols I could not decipher. Words, such as and, it, and for, which are rudimentary to kindergartners, meant nothing to me. I had no insights to its passages. There was neither a beginning nor an end as far as I could see. Ironically, I found solace within the silent void that would never abandon me.
I watched as the metropolis slowly faded into farms and fields. The woodlands were just as magnificent as I imagined within the elfin world. Wild flowers danced over the ground as far as the eye could see within vast meadows of splendorous perfection. The bus came to a halt, and I braved the separation from the familiar to embrace what I had yet to discover. A man stood outside holding a sign, but I knew not what it read, so I waited for a stranger to approach as this man continued to stare at me with electrifying eyes.
He was young and handsome with a toned physique. His black hair tapered neatly around his V collar. His eyes genuinely appeared struck by my quietude. He nodded humbly as I passed by. My shoes were dingy and worn. One lacked its sole, and my coat two sizes to large, hung lifeless around my knees, making me appear as round, as I was tall. I still tried desperately to portray the elegance of a well-bred woman. But alas, I have two left feet and clumsily tripped on a crack in the sidewalk.
Managing to catch myself before I completely fell, I stood with crimson cheeks. I felt the warmth of blood settle within. I suddenly felt misplaced, as though I’d lost myself at a moment’s glance. Impossible, I thought, for I had yet to discover my true self and therefore could not possibly lose what was beyond my grasp. I then recalled why this trip, this next stage in life, was so important. Who was Franchesca Pearl? Such a question only invoked further uncertainties. After all, I had but only dismal memories of early childhood and I knew nothing of my family. Surely, God had a plan in store for me, or mother would not have passed away in my stead.
The man holding the sign that I could not read was, at that moment, far from my weary mind. Given his formal attire, complete with polished dress shoes, I felt certain he saw nothing special at a moment’s glance, especially since I donned a pair of sun-faded jeans. The only jeans I physically owned. I suddenly withdrew, for what man would want a non-conversant woman without so much as a rudimentary education. The communication barrier alone would surely drive him away. I then retreated to stand alone yet again.
The coffee shop across the street looked inviting, but I had not a single cent to my name. I was, as many would claim, penniless, ignorant, and ashamed in the presence of those who could not look away. I felt the man’s relentless stare penetrating from behind and I desperately wished to leave yet another scene behind. My entire existence had been scenes that seemingly flashed before my eyes, but this was one episode in which I found no escape. My heartbeat raced with each thought.
I begged and pleaded with God to strike me down with all of his love and mercy. I wished to vanish to a world without silence and ignorance, one where the streets were paved in gold and onlookers smiled radiantly without pity. I began to loathe pity in all its complex forms. I turned to flee but knew not where to run. I felt like an outcast within a strange new world that already rejected me. Within the sadness, I heard Shelly’s voice call out to me. To give up is to fail, but if you never give up, you will never fail, echoed throughout the myriad complexities of my mind.
Would I give up without so much as a fight? I’d asked Shelly once, who conveyed such remarkable words of wisdom, and she simply replied that my mother had given her such advice. When I asked who gave mother the same advice, her eyes darkened before signing, “The Resident.” The fear in her eyes warned me to leave well enough alone.
I quickly hugged the coat around my bodice as a cool breeze gusted through me. Surely, Shelly offered a clue, a glimpse into my past, one for me to discover. Who was the unspoken person of whom she spoke so profoundly, and what connection did this person have with my mother? Furthermore, who was the young man who found it difficult to look away? I glanced over my shoulder but no longer saw him standing across the way. I sighed in relief and began to walk toward the bus stop to sit and rest awhile. I suddenly stopped when a stranger’s shadow followed from behind.
The dark silhouette followed for a moment or two before reaching out and reeling me around. I nearly slapped his crude approach but restrained to genteel tactics. I was, after all, deaf not savage.
He, Lathan, quickly signed my name. He then apologized before sitting me down upon the nearest bench. Much to my surprise, he signed what the documents detailed and asked if I’d like to behold my new home. I’m certain I must have gasped, looking back. There I was, a young orphan woman, on the breadline and nomadic, and here was an equally young man who conveyed that I now had a home to call my very own.
I was certain he had mistaken me for another but I quickly nodded with anticipation. He then drove me down a long dirt drive where a beautiful, white, regal home sat situated between two large, feral trees. He handed me the keys and bid me good night, but I held him steadfast. He smiled and nodded, ultimately following me into the strange abode. Much of the house was void of clutter with only essential belongings used in daily routine. Preceding an extensive examination of the structure, we came across an heirloom chest containing the memoirs of an amazing woman, Catalina Wren Emerson. Unable to read, I turned to Lathan for assistance.
Twenty-one hours later, comprised over a three-week span, Lathan finished signing her written recollections. We both kind of sat there staring blankly at the walls.
“Is there any more?” I conveyed only through searching eyes. The memoirs ended abruptly and felt incomplete to my weary mind. I could not help but wonder whatever became of Catalina and what Anam Cara meant.
“That’s it,” replied Lathan with a slight shrug.
I knew he too felt something amiss as he thumbed through previously read script. His perplexing gaze conveyed loudly amongst the silence. Old photographs whimsically danced across the somber walls as I strolled within a memory I did not recognize. Each face smiled down upon me, which further disquieted my heart.
Catalina’s words, though beyond belief, forever changed my life, but before I can truly tell you my story, you must first read hers. But readers beware. Catalina’s memoirs are not for the faint of heart. Her words will take you on a momentous journey beyond belief.