Now I’m Intrigued – A Scene from A Thousand Years

There’s been a great deal going on these days. My writing has been fairly non-existent (which actually infuriates me). But I hope in the next couple of weeks, I can get back to where I was. Here is “Now I’m Intrigued” a scene from my novel A Thousand Years. You can read other excerpts, here.

***

2004

The funny thing about life is that you usually can’t imagine that healing is ahead when you’re in the thick of the pain. In the grief – in the anger and hurt of lost love and unplanned single parenthood – you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how good things might be someday. But you do wake up one day and life looks different – different, better. It has been a slow burn – truth be told. I’m happy now. I am content with life as it is. That’s something that may even be better than happiness. Today is our grand opening at Tierra de Dios. I woke with the sun – I’m sure we all did. I’ve been in the barn ever since, prepping tables with center pieces and making sure everything looks exactly like I planned. In the year we’ve prepped and planned for this, I found some purpose and meaning beyond being a mom. It’s not that it’s not okay to find purpose and meaning as a mom – I just needed something more to keep my mind busy. And opening Tierra de Dios has been what I needed. My grandparents caught my vision – between my research, sketches, and the time I’d invested in a business plan – they haven’t once questioned my choices here. They’ve given me this project to run with. They gave me a budget. They gave me some constraints. But for the most part, this has been my baby. They’ve followed me wholeheartedly. It is a good feeling. Racing through final finishing touches, I check the time again – I’ve got an hour to drive back to the house and get ready. Dammit. Why am I like this? I can’t be on time to save my life. I should have been getting ready an hour ago. Though the winery is on my grandparent’s ranch, it takes about twenty minutes to get back to the house – which means I have twenty minutes to look like I’m opening a world-class winery and event venue. Note to self – use the bridal room bathroom to get ready on event days. I have been late all of my life. Being late is how I met Gray Ford. I sometimes still don’t know how to be thankful for that day, without the hurt that follows. I’m thankful because it gave me Jackson Ford Langston. If only all that other stuff had never happened.

The thing about being the only Mexican owned winery on the privileged central coast of California, is that it gets you a lot of attention. The kind that has folks waiting in line for your gates to open, reporters from all over the state swarming, and handfuls of celebrities and athletes – waiting on your grand opening day. Our friends in the community are here too. This is the place to be today. Our opening has been the talk of the coast. The acreage that we own here is some of the prettiest along this rugged Big Sur coastline.

Our barn, on a hill overlooking the Pacific, is in a sweet meadow that gives unobstructed views of the ocean. This land, with its freshwater streams, creeks, and ponds is an emerald green shining beauty. Along the south side of the barn, redwoods and Monterey cypress reach and bend toward the coast. On the north side of the barn, a huge California live oak provides shade and a perfect ceremony spot for outdoor weddings. Stretching further to the north are yucca, sagebrush, native wildflowers, shrubs, and even some cacti. It’s all of California’s beauty in one sweet spot. If you follow a short trail behind the barn, some of our newly planted vineyards stretch up over the hill toward the rest of ours vines, that have been growing on this land since the 70s.

This is a stunning piece of land. And I am beyond joyful that we get to share it now. Driving around back access roads, normally used when we’re moving cattle from one pasture to another, I skirt around the waiting line of cars and park in our staff parking area, out of sight from the barn. My mom has given me crap for so long about my tardiness. I do wish I could change it – but even when I have the best of intentions, I still end up running at the last minute. Which is what I do – I run toward the barn where the rest of the family, and my boy are waiting.

***

Vineyard, winery, elaina avamlos

I pride myself on my ability to create a beautiful party. It sounds so trivial when there are so many other things in the world that cry for our attention. As an artist, I feel deeply. I feel other’s pain. There’s injustice all around us. Sometimes I think I can’t make a dent in the world by throwing parties and creating this place of tranquility and beauty in the midst the chaos of the world. But like art, sometimes it’s the beauty that becomes the foundation for lasting change. There’s an overwhelming amount of ugly in our world. Creating time and space for the small joys of good food, good wine, sweet memories with friends, and family – is no small thing. And that’s what we’ve started here. I have shaken more hands, hugged more people than seems normal, and have loved every second of this wild and crazy day so far. The music, the breeze blowing off the water, and the wine and food, are creating this sweet spot of joy in my heart I didn’t know I needed.

It has been hours since our gates opened and between the music, food, and wine – the party is still going strong. My sweet new nanny has patiently hung out – chasing my boy all over – for hours. But I know it’s time for her to take him home. The last time I looked, she’d found a table and contained him long enough to feed him. His busybody ways are nearly impossible to control when people are around. I look back at the table and realize they’ve moved on. I search around through the crowd to see if I can find them. I don’t see them in any of the usual spots. I turn – my eyes searching everywhere. A brief moment of unexplained panic rises up – as if he’s in danger here on land he already knows so well.

When I finally find him, he’s having an in depth conversation with a man I don’t know. Becky, our nanny, is standing with them. Jackson is standing on the stranger’s lap, talking a mile a minute, as if he knows how to talk, and is best friends with a man I can barely see. This kid. I head their way quickly to relieve the patient stranger. “Jackson Langston Ford, you silly boy,” I say, mid-babble, Jackson turns to face me. His smile widens, as if that’s possible. Joy personified this kid. “It’s time for you to take a nap and let this nice dude here, enjoy his Saturday.”

I take a step closer and realize the man he’s suddenly become best friends with is Nolan Carter – a San Francisco 49ers Linebacker. I only know this because someone pointed him out to me a couple of hours ago, as if I’d know who he is. I don’t know sports. At all. Not even a little. So when he looked up at me from his chair, my kid as comfortable as if he’s known him all his days, I didn’t expect the smile or the genuine reaction. This burly professional football player, is clearly enjoying my kid. And people who like my kid are number 1, top of the heap – perfect, in my book.

“Oh he’s fine. I mean, a nap is a nap and I’d never want to interrupt that, but he’s not disturbing me at all. He walked right over here a few minutes ago and told me what was what. I have no idea what we’re discussing, but it is very important just the same, I will have you know.”

“I’m sure it is,” I say, smiling at this charming and very attractive man, playing with me kid. “He’s not known for discussing trivial matters with perfect strangers. Nonetheless, my little hooligan here needs a nap, or tonight and tomorrow will not be pleasant for me or the members of our household. Thank you for entertaining my boy, Mr. Carter,” I say, extending my hand to shake his, after I’ve taken my boy back – where he’s propped on my hip.

“You’re very welcome – Carolina, right?”

“Yes. Thank you for coming today. And again, thank you for being sweet to my kid.”

“It’s my pleasure,” he says, smiling. My stomach lurches. He is one fine looking man. I walk off with Becky and Jackson – giving her a few instructions for the rest of the evening. She has been sweet enough to agree to stay overnight as I expect a very late night. Though I’d initially been reticent about hiring someone to take care of Jackson, I know it’s the right call. She is the perfect person to understand our lifestyle and that we don’t always need her to be off somewhere with him. She is prepared to be part of the action with my boy, as often as possible. I love her already. When I return to the party, after sending them back to the house, I smile as the mariachis start playing. I decided on a unique take – I’ve hired an all-girl mariachi band from Southern California. The lead singer’s voice floats above the crowd, after the band plays its gentle guitar and trumpet based instrumental, opening. Everyone stops what they’re doing to listen to her beautiful voice. As a little girl, my Grandma would play these songs for me, long before I understood their words. The velvety voice of the lead singer, comforts me in an unexpected way, as the music floats up into the night sky. “Great party.” I instantly recognize Nolan Carter’s voice. I turn in his direction, still not 100% certain I’ve heard him correctly.

“What’s that?” I ask.

“I said, great party,” he says.

“Thank you. It has been a labor of love to get to this point. Thanks again for being sweet to my kid. He’s never met a stranger, that one.”

“I could tell. Cute kid.”

“He is, isn’t he? He doesn’t look a thing like me.”

“Your husband is fair-skinned with blue eyes?”

“No.”

“NO?”

“I mean, yes. I mean, no.” Nolan laughs. He has a deep, belly shaking kind of laugh. He’s a bear of a man. I guess that’s why he’s a linebacker. I feel ridiculous standing next to him – all 5’4 of me next to his 6’4-ish.

“Whatever, lady,” he says, winking at me.

“Ah. Got it. You didn’t have to answer, by the way.”

“Oh, it’s okay. I am so used to everyone around here knowing, that I’m rarely asked questions like that.”

“I was really just trying to figure out if you were single or not. I didn’t see a ring but you never know.”

I laugh, because I can’t help myself. I’m not sure how it’s possible that this terribly good looking man in front of me is flirting with me. I’m a single mother – with a toddler at that. “Yes, I’m single,” I say rolling my eyes. “Single parenthood is not usually high on the list of qualities most men are looking for, you know?”

“I’m not going to lie, I’ve been watching you for a while.”

“What does that mean?” I ask, suddenly a little weirded out.

“You’ve been making some waves in the city – with the winery and hiring Chef Silva.”

“Have I now?”

“Yeah. You pissed a lot of people off picking off the Chef from one of the hottest restaurants in town. I kept hearing your name come up and then a friend pointed you out to me at Mulligan’s a few months ago. I’ve been determined to meet you ever since.”

I laugh nervously. How is this even happening right now? “So you’re apparently into the food scene? Wine, too?”

“You could say that. I am hoping to end my football career soon and open a restaurant. I have an Associates from the CIA in St. Helena. They’ve been very patient with my weird lifestyle. I’m also a sommelier. My original degree was in Business Administration. I have big plans for rocking the boat when I retire. So yeah – anyone who shows up on the food and wine scene that rocks the boat, attracts my attention. Mostly because you came out of nowhere.”

“I do like to rock the boat. That is for certain.”

“I can tell. Today has been fantastic. And the food is incredible. You’ve got something really incredible here. The thing is, I think you’ve got way more in you than this. This is the start of a hospitality empire,” he says. Now I’m not certain if he’s attracted to me or he wants to go into business with me.

Either way, I’m intrigued.

It’s Still You

wild things, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos, it's still you, a thousand years

Reason was my goal in this longing. I am failing. I wanted to see through the fog and confusion to understand. But no matter how much correct thinking and logical reasoning I muster, it’s still you. I don’t hold it against you. I didn’t then and I do not now. In the fog and confusion, I tried to reason myself free, but you can’t tame wild things. I don’t want to be tame anyway. The truth is, I don’t want to lose my ability to understand and live well in the greys. I don’t need black and white and perfect little boxes that I fit my life and feelings into. That’s not who I am. I tried to reason. I’ve failed. It’s still you.

“I live here in this tension, with what will not be, settling into the cold, wild – alone.”

Everything Made Sense Again

This is an excerpt of my novel, A Thousand Years.

The day everything made sense again, the sweat dripped down my shirt, pooling between my breasts and running down my back. I longed for a swift and harsh southern thunderstorm to rip through town, cooling everything in its wake – including me. But I’m not that lucky. Standing in the center of town, I turn around in a circle taking in the bustle of a town getting ready for its tricentennial. My tiny staff is directing and guiding city employees in the finishing touches. Our official celebration kicks off in two hours and marks a week of events – most planned by yours truly. I told my staff earlier today that I couldn’t function unless I’d showered before the kickoff. But it’s August in North Carolina. I am sopping wet again. August in the south is about as close to hell as one can get. Even here in the mountains – especially this year – a scorcher for the record books. I guess there’s really no point to worry over this, everyone’s in the same boat.

As if on cue, a bolt of lightning lights up the ever-darkening sky and thunder quickly follows on its heels. The deluge begins then. I race across the street & duck into The Filling Station, but not before the rain has soaked me to the bone. Macy, the new owner, is behind the counter. I head toward her hoping I don’t look as bad as I feel. “What can I get you, Birdie? An iced-coffee maybe? I know you’ve got a long week ahead, maybe have a seat and dry off a minute, before getting sucked into the craziness?”

“I think I’ll take you up on that offer,” I say, as water drips onto the black and white checkered tile of the town’s oldest café. “It’s probably best if I stand here though. I’m sopping wet.”

“Eh. Don’t worry about it,” she says, pointing to an open barstool at the end of the counter. I sit down and moments later, Jess, one of the servers, walks out with a towel and hands it to me.

“Thank you, sweetie,” I say, taking the towel and wiping down my bare legs and arms and then slowly patting my head with the towel – feeling a little weird doing so at the busiest restaurant in town.

Johnny, the former owner and now sometimes cook and barista, when he’s not fishing or hunting – that is, walks out of the kitchen. Without missing a beat he says, “You look like a drowned rat, Birdie.”

“Thanks, Mr. Johnny. That’s exactly the look I was going for.” He hands me my coffee and as usual, he’s added a little extra flair of chocolate and caramel sauce on the whipped cream – just for me. I love my town.

Only me. Only I would be drenched from head to toe – today of all days. After checking on my hair and makeup in the bathroom, I grab my coffee and head back outside. Now that the storm has passed, the steam roils and rolls in smoky wisps from the asphalt. The air is cooler, but only slightly. I cross the street and set my drink down on the gazebo bench and stand in the sun, hoping my clothes will dry quickly all the while contemplating if I have enough time to get the two blocks to my house for a quick change. I look at my phone and then all around. Everything is done. My staff, the city employees, and volunteers have done an incredible job. We are ahead of schedule. I slip off my flats, grab my coffee in the other hand, and run toward home.

Good thing I had a back-up outfit ready. Once in the house, I race to the bedroom, thankful that my old house has a new AC unit. It is gloriously cool inside. I slip on my white eyelet Michael Kors dress. Since it’s already rained, I’m willing to tempt fate with the white. I grab my espadrilles on the bedroom floor and as I step into the hallway, the doorbell chimes through the house. What a racket that thing makes. Note to self – it’s time to get a new doorbell before I leave on vacation. I come around the corner and through the glass on my door I make out the form of a man. That looks like Graham, I think, as a I reach for the door and open it.

“Gray?” I ask – as if the past few years have somehow made me forget what the love of my life looks like.

“Hi. I know this is crazy. But I needed to see you. Can we talk?”

“Now? I’m kind of busy. I mean, I can’t talk now. You always did have shitty timing. I have this event. I have to go – “I say, shaking my head as if this mirage of a man standing in front of me will disappear.

“I know. I’m here because I saw you on the news. I was in the café when you came in. I’m not going to lie. I obviously can’t. I followed you here. I knew I had to take my shot. I can stay and talk to you afterward. Or when you have a free moment. I can just hang out. I need to talk to you – please?”

“I guess. I – I have to get moving,” I say as I pull the door shut, locking it and slipping my keys into my dress pocket. Graham follows me down the steps. I don’t wait for him. I take off in a jog, leaving him behind. I mean, I barely jog. He’s a runner, runner. Like ultra-marathon runner. It’s not like he can’t catch me. But I do it anyway. I don’t look back. Kind of like I did after the last time I saw him.

Within seconds of leaving my porch, the town square comes into view. It’s then that I realize my phone has been buzzing and pinging with texts and alerts. In the brief time it took me to get home, change, and head back – the park has filled with residents, the tourists that pay the bills, and former residents. And who can forget the media? I practically had to pay them to come. But whatever. They’re here. I stop jogging and drop my shoes on the concrete. I slip into them and bend down to buckle them. When I stand up, I try to sneak a glance behind me. Gray is nowhere in sight. I’m relieved. He has the worst timing – always has – since literally the day we met.

I’m Gonna Let Him Fly

“And there ain’t no talkin’ to this man
He’s been tryin’ to tell me so
It took a while to understand the beauty of just letting go
Cause it would take an acrobat, I already tried all that
I’m gonna let him fly”
~Patty Griffin

I live each day as if I belong to him. But I come home to an empty, quiet house. The silence has become deafening and churns the anxiety and the overthinking until I’m lost in the wild crashing surf – knocked around by my doubts – by past losses and heartbreak.

I’m gonna let him go.

I don’t want to know anymore – if she exists, who she is, or what she has, that I don’t. I don’t want to know why. I’ve tried to talk myself into being okay with this – with this – No-Man’s Land we tip toe in and out of. You can wait this out, I whispered over and over again to myself. But I’ve been here before. You’ve been here before, I remind myself. It all looks so familiar.

So I’m gonna let him go.

Letting go isn’t an easy, snap of your fingers decision that *poof* makes it all go away. There’s an active, conscious decision to do so and sometimes it’s a daily decision – particularly when you love a man that can’t, doesn’t, or won’t choose you.

I’m gonna let him go.

In a few days, I fly to the coast. There’s a decision to be made – move back for good and face the future and all it brings – by myself – or stay in place, wondering if he’ll find his way to me. I fly into one of my favorite cities in the world and then drive three hours south. I don’t need to take that route. But I need to take that route. The highway hugs the treacherous cliffs. The winding road and the slow pace it takes to get closer and closer to my Granddad’s house, offer a kind of therapy that others pay thousands for. Those cliffs are a harsh and entirely stunning reminder that we are just a mere blip in time. The grandeur of it all puts things into perspective. Or at least it used to. I crave perspective. And like the humidity has come to do in my adopted home, I pray the cool fog seeps down into my bones and clears my head and heart.

Because I am gonna let him go. But I’m going to need some help with that.

I Miss You Today

I miss you today. I miss you often. Some days hit a little different though. Today it’s the sound of your voice and how I feel when you look at me – in that way you do – that I’m missing. The way you look at me always knocks me a little off center. Mostly because I equally long for it and fear it, at the same time. Fear it because I love you through this wild, alone.

If there’s one thing I need now, it would be to hear you say my name – to hear your voice. That and having this thing that stands between us, a distant memory.

When I was a kid, we camped on the beach. The waves crashed against the course sand – endlessly through the night. They were an ever present reminder of how something so wild and unruly can also be stable and predictable. How weird is that? Loving you is like that. Deeply comforting. Wildly unpredictable. And on days like today, as needed as the breath that fills my lungs.

I miss you today.