That's the premise of my short story—LAURA'S LOCKET—and based on an incident in my book BLOODGIFTED, the first in the Dantonville Legacy series. My character, Laura Dantonville, reminisces about a young man she met while on a European holiday with her two best friends. She was only eighteen.
Many years later, the silver locket he gave her still hangs on her dresser-mirror.
Those who've read BLOODGIFTED, will recognise the incident and the young man involved—Jean-Philippe Reynard. He's a talented portrait artist and—something more. I won't spoil it for those who haven't read the book yet.
As a teaser, I'm including the first four pages. The rest of the story will be available FREE on Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes/iBooks, Sony, Kobo and Barnes & Noble in the next two weeks.
My wonderful Dantonville Street Team have already read the story. The verdict? Thumbs up!
In my next post, I'll reveal the cover.
So, without much ado, here it is:
LAURA’S LOCKET © Tima Maria Lacoba 2014
I opened the train window and the cool air rushed in. Although it was January, I wanted to breathe in the wintery air. The wind bit my face and made my cheeks tingle. It was refreshing after sitting for an hour in an overheated train compartment. I’d already taken off my coat, scarf and woollen cap, and my angora jumper was scrunched up on the seat.
In the distance, the Mediterranean Sea sparkled in the late afternoon sunshine as our train snaked around the narrow precipice of the southern Italian coastline. Jagged cliffs dropped away inches from the iron tracks that barely clung to the rocky earth.
‘Sorrento, next stop!’ I said with a smile, then left the window and pulled my bag down from the overhead shelves.
My two best friends, Beth and Angie, also hopped up from their seats to lift their bags down. We’d known each other since seventh grade, and there was rarely a weekend the three of us didn’t have a sleepover at one of our homes. At school we’d been nicknamed “The Three Amigos.”
And this was our very first trip overseas. I couldn’t wait to start our Amalfi holiday.
We linked arms, jumped up and down on the spot and squealed. All through our senior year we’d planned this trip to celebrate the end of high school, worked at part time jobs and saved as much as we could. Our parents made up the shortfall, as did my aunt Judy, Dad’s sister. She chose our hotels and even paid for mine.
I glanced out the window just as we passed a secluded cove and the gentle undulations of an inflated palm tree close to the shoreline caught my eye.
‘Look at this. An artificial tropical island!’ I said and pointed. ‘Must be anchored to a rock below the waves or something.’
Beth and Angie squeezed in next to me and stuck their heads out the window.
‘A fake palm tree. That’s classic!’ Beth said while clawing away tendrils of her long, black hair the wind had whipped around her face.
Beth’s family had migrated from Mumbai when she was three, and their house was only a street away from mine in Earlwood. Her dark exotic looks were in stark contrast to my coppery locks and lavender-coloured eyes. I envied her being able to stay out in the strong Australian sun, whereas my pale skin turned pink within five minutes.
‘Does it belong to a resort or something?’ she added. ‘Wonder if there’re more?’ Her ebony eyes scanned the coastline ahead.
It seemed so out of place. The beach was empty: no deck chairs, umbrellas or the usual summer paraphernalia. But then, it was January, and all the resorts were closed. Perhaps this was one thing they’d forgotten to pack away for the winter.
‘You know, Laura, I’m still surprised your parents let you go. They’ve got to be the most over-protective people I’ve ever met,’ Angie said, a thick, faux fur hat tucked so low over her curly brown hair I could barely see her eyes.
Even before we had purchased our airline tickets, Angie had splashed out on the latest winter fashions. That the hat was too big for her didn’t matter—it was “in!” Masking her eyes as it did, I worried she could trip and hurt herself.
‘Well, it’s only-child syndrome! So I can kind of understand,’ I added quietly. It had taken a lot of persuading on my part. I’d asked my aunt Judy to talk to them too. She and Dad were close, although I knew she wasn’t keen on my trip either. ‘But Angie and Beth’ll be with me. I’m not going alone,’ I’d told her. ‘You know them. Pleeease?’ It worked.
‘That’s cos you look so young. No one’d guess you’re an adult. I reckon you’ll have to pull out your passport every time you order a drink,’ Angie said as she pushed the hat back off her brow for the umpteenth time.
I stuck my tongue out at her and she laughed. So did I.
‘They’re probably worried you’ll meet some foreign guy and won’t want to come home,’ Beth said.
I shook my head. ‘No way!’ I had no intention of doing anything of the sort, but the prospect of meeting a hot Italian guy was exciting. I was on holidays, so why not have a little romance? The problem is my handicap. It’s not a physical one, more like a weird genetic anomaly—I age slowly, very slowly. At eighteen, in the prime of life, I haven’t got my period yet. And, I was still a virgin! How embarrassing!
‘We’re here!’ Angie squealed. The train rounded another bend and began to slow. She leant her head further out, gripping her oversized, fur hat. ‘It’s so pretty.’
Clusters of red-roofed houses and three-to-four-storey buildings honeycombed the cliff side all the way to the sea. In the marina, only a few boats bobbed on the waves, large luxury yachts among them.
Beth and I tried to see past Angie, but the wind stung my eyes. I flopped back into my seat and threw on my jumper. ‘C’mon you guys, we’ll be there any minute. Better get your stuff together.’
‘Should we get a taxi or walk to the hotel?’ Angie’s voice sounded muffled as she struggled into her shocking-pink anorak.
‘No way we’re going to lose you in a crowd wearing that thing,’ I teased.
Angie laughed and dipped her knee in a mock curtsy. ‘No way, matey. Besides, it’s so this season.’
I rolled my eyes, but I admired Angie’s love of bright colours and her ability to wear them with such unabashed confidence.
‘Laura, you’ve got the map.’ Beth took charge. ‘How far’s the hotel from the station?’ She checked her reflection in the aisle window and adjusted her beret.
I retrieved the Lonely Planet Guidebook from my coat pocket. ‘Um… on here it looks really close; down the hill from the station. Fifteen to twenty minutes to the Piazza Tasso maybe?’
‘Okay, walk then?’ She turned to face us, eyebrows raised. We’d elected Beth as our unofficial leader, being the oldest. At nineteen she was already engaged to her long-time boyfriend, Ashley. She was even on the Pill.
Angie looked at me and shrugged. ‘Sure. We’ve been sitting for ages.’
She had a point. After the first twelve hours of the twenty-two hour flight from Sydney, the novelty had worn off and I couldn’t wait to land. At the Bangkok stopover, I practically ran from one end of the terminal to the other; not so much to catch our connecting flight, but for some exercise.
The train stopped, and we followed the other passengers along the platform. Heads down, faces concealed in scarves and bundled up against the cold, they dispersed leaving us staring at a sparsely populated square—the Piazza Angelina Lauro.
In less than fifteen minutes we stood before a set of tall, scrolled wrought-iron gates, behind which we glimpsed an imposing, terracotta-coloured building. The sign read: Grand Excelsior Vittoria Hotel.
It would be our home for the next three days.
* * *