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Giselle: The Secret of the Locket- Sneak Peek

Written by Maes E. & Stephanie G.

BOOK PREVIEW CHAPTER 1-5

Prologue

The sound of shattering glass woke Giselle up. Terrified and disoriented, she sat up and looked around. She blinked hard to focus her sleepy eyes on her surroundings. Where was she?

Again, she jumped as a crash of thunder echoed in the eeriness of the night.  With a trembling hand she reached for her bedside lamp but grasped only air. 

A flash of lightning lit the room, jolting her sleepy brain to make her think. Oh, it was Grandmama’s house, but why was she wet?

A cool splatter of raindrops slapped Giselle’s arms and legs. She remembered leaving the window wide open to drown the stifling heat. Now, rain forced its way into the cosy room. Trembling a little, she scrambled out of bed and darted across the room to close the window.

She yelped as she stumped her little toe on the corner of the bedside table. Blindly, she banged the window shut and limped across the room to turn the light on. As she reached for the light switch, a sudden explosion of thunder reverberated through the house. Terror-stricken, Giselle crouched over and covered her ears. She was unable to move or reach for the light switch.

Another outburst boomed through the house. Her heart pounding and tears threatening to spill, she crawled to the door and fumbled with the doorknob until she managed to swing it open. The faint glow of the nightlight in the corridor greeted her thumping heart. Her quivering legs miraculously held her up as she ran to Sophie’s room for safety.

“Soph, Soph!” Giselle cried as she burst into her cousin’s room and switched the light on. 

“What! What?” Sophie sat up and rubbed her eyes. Another clap of thunder resonated through the house.  Once more, Giselle covered her ears and shut her eyes.

“The storm!” Giselle’s voice squeaked.

Sophie jumped out of bed, her long blond hair ridiculously tousled as she rushed to Giselle’s side. “Gi, it’s ok,” she said. “You’re safe with me and Grandmama. You’ll be fine.”

Still shaking, Giselle flopped onto her cousin’s bed. “I’m such a baby! I mean, who is afraid of storms? I hate feeling like this. I hate it!” She covered her face with her hands and cried.

Giving her cousin a squeeze, Sophie whispered, “Really, Gi, everyone is scared of something.”

“Yeah, maybe. But a storm? I’m not two, Soph!” Giselle burst out.

Lightning and thunder rumbled as if it were in the room with them. Giselle buried her head on her cousin’s shoulder. Sophie hugged her, but she didn’t say anything until the sounds started to roll away.

“Hey, that one wasn’t that loud.” Sophie smiled. Giselle could tell she was trying to ease her fears.

Giselle looked up, cocked her head to one side, and listened intently as the roll of thunder and the brightness of lightning became more distant and softer, heavy rain pelted on the roof and windowpanes. Rain was ok, though. Giselle loved rain.

 Giselle slowly exhaled. She had not even realised she’d been holding her breath. Thank goodness Sophie had been around. She would probably have passed out if she had been on her own!

Chapter 1

Dear diary,

I’m sooooo tired but happy. We’ve been super busy the last few days hanging out with Grandmama. She took us to church and afterwards to have high tea at Valentina’s tearoom. The delicacies were mouthwatering, but they’re so posh these. I wasn’t allowed to wear my boho sandals, and Silver wasn’t allowed to wear her cute cowgirl boots. Even Em wasn’t allowed to wear the new Nike sneakers she had bought. It was torture wearing heels. Plus, my feet are long, and the pair I was wearing from my cousins was too tight. Squishing my foot into Sophie’s little heels, I felt like Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters.  LOL.  Sophie promises that we are the same shoe size, but I don’t think so. Hmm. Oh, and Grandmama took us to Crest Pointe Markets.  That was dreamy! The things I found were awesome – some real cheapo stuff too.

Anyways, today’s the big day when the family arrives for the end of January party celebration. Everyone’s gonna be here – even Aunty Jackeline and Uncle Logan are here all the way from USA. Silver is over the moon that her whole family made it.  But as awesome as it is having all my aunts, uncles, and cousins, I wish my Nonno was here. My heart hurts so much when I think about him. He was the world’s most amazing grandpa. I love that he left us this end of January tradition. I can still hear him saying, “We are family and no matter where we come from, we will always be one. We celebrate love, life and bond.” Then we would all click our glasses filled with grape juice and cheer. He’s forever in my ♥

The next few hours will be nuts as we run around setting up the outdoor area with lights, music, flowers, and Nonno’s favourite Mediterranean dishes he brought back from Italy. Anyways, I already hear the craziness of everyone running around outside, and I hear Soph calling my name. Ops, I better get moving. I can’t wait for tonight to start!!

G x

Giselle drew a simple sketch of the heirloom dishes at the bottom of the page and smiled, satisfied with her drawings. Yep, looked super cute. She shut the pages of her handmade-floral-design journal with a thud. A diary entry was never complete without one of her drawings to beautify the page. She hid the eco-friendly book under the pillow and walked out of her room to meet with chaos.

“Giselle, I was going nuts looking for you!” Sophie grabbed Giselle by the arm and pulled her towards the back door and down the path towards Nonno’s man cave. “Where were you?” she demanded, her usual perfect complexion flushed and drenched in sweat. “Never mind! Come help me find the fairy lights to decorate outside. I need to find those lights, or everything will be ruined! I’ve looked everywhere. Grr.”

Giselle suppressed a smile at seeing her cousin in such a frenzy. Where had the impeccable put together Sophie gone?

“Soph, hold on.” Giselle pulled her cousin towards her. “You need to chill, or you’ll pass out. Breathe in, breathe out, and relax.” Giselle closed her eyes and demonstrated how to breathe in and out slowly. “Like this,” she said.

Sophie twisted her lip to one side and shook her head, “I don’t have time…”

“Just do it. You’ll feel tons better.” Giselle didn’t let go of her hand until Sophie started to breathe in and out at a slow pace.

A few seconds later, Sophie’s blue eyes popped opened. “Ahh…” she said. “Thanks, Gi. I feel tons better.”

“Seeee!” Giselle squeezed her cousin’s hand. “Ok, so exactly what are we looking for?”

“I need to put up the fairy lights, and Grandmama thinks they’re in Nonno’s shed…. well, his man cave.”

Giselle’s stomach twisted when she saw Nonno’s little green shed at the back of the garden. A garden chair and table decorated one corner, and a few pot plants filled with Aloe Vera were on the other side.

Her heart beating a little faster, Giselle paused and took a deep breath. faster. She remained quiet as Sophie talked on about how she was going to hang the lights.

The leafy trees above them moved gently with the breeze and Giselle shivered involuntarily.

When they stopped at the little green and white wooden door, Sophie paused and turned to look at Giselle. Slowly, she turned the handle and went in.

“Oh, Nonno, I miss you!” Sophie said out loud.

Giselle touched the door pane and smiled. She had helped him paint the door one hot summer’s day. He had brought home a bunch of green paint palettes, and together they had chosen hunter green.

She laughed when she saw the crooked green streaks near the white paint. She had told Nonno to paint over her work, but he refused. He said he loved her artistic lines. Giselle shook her head. Only Nonno would say something like that.

“I haven’t been in here for ages.” Sophie’s voice interrupted her thoughts as she walked through the door and into the dark stuffy room.

“Me either.” Giselle whispered as she fumbled with the light switch and brought life into the room.

“Ok, you tackle that side of the room, and I’ll look on this side. Hopefully, he left those lights in here somewhere.” Sophie wiped her hands on her white shorts, removed her sandals, and got down on her hands and knees to look inside boxes.

Giselle stared around the room and felt tears coming. In one corner was his stripped sofa, his tv that looked like it had belonged in the 60’s, and an old record player that she loved. Giselle could almost hear his Italian folk music blaring throughout the shed.  Beside a sink was a long bench where he kept some of Giselle’s paints and a bookshelf. Giselle gasped when she spotted something on his bookshelf. She walked towards it and grabbed the tiny easel that sat gathering dust.

“Oh, wow, Soph check this out.” Giselle walked over to Sophie and showed her the tiny easel. “I painted this for Nonno ages ago. I can’t believe he kept it.”

Sophie grabbed the little easel and said, “Aw, how adorable. It’s you and Nonno. Gi you were an awesome artist then. This is cool!”

Giselle giggled. “Thanks.” She touched the painting with her index finger and sighed. She had painted Nonno watching over her as she learned to ride her bike.

“This place is too dark. I’m gonna go get a torch to see better,” Sophie said as she headed out the door. “I’ll be right back.” With those words, she disappeared.

Giselle looked at the painting one more time and shook her head. Such good memories. She went back to the bookshelf to place the little painting onto its shelf. Just as she set it down, her eye caught the title of a book. Giselle gasped as she read The Count of Chateau Laurent.

Suddenly her heart thundered in her chest, her throat tightened, and her breathing accelerated as she remembered that awful day three years ago.

Chapter 2

Three years earlier – a few days before Nonno passed away.

Giselle locked her mint and white retro bike with the chain, gave it a tug, and hurried up the steps of Crest Pointe Rest Home where Nonno lived. She patted her boho satchel that hung on her shoulder to make sure she could still feel her art journal and chocolate filled croissants she was about to sneak to Nonno. She giggled. He always expected a treat when she came to visit.

She opened the door to the reception area and said, “Hi,” to Jessica, the dark-haired receptionist.

“Welcome back, darling,” Jessica replied.

Giselle smiled, “I came to show Nonno my latest art journal. He loves looking at it.” She shifted her heavy bag to the other shoulder. “How is he today?”

Jessica looked around and lowered her voice, “He has had an off day.” She pursed her lips. “Are you sure you want to see him like that?”

Giselle’s head bobbed up and down. “Yes, please. I really want to see him.”

Jessica smiled. “I tell you what. I’ll get you to sign in, and then if he’s not himself, you can ring the bell, and the nurses can look after him. Sound like a plan?”

Giselle swallowed, her voice barely a whisper. “Ok.”

After signing in, Giselle followed the tartan blue carpet all the way to room 203. She knocked softly on the door and turned the handle. Nonno’s face was turned toward the window. She wasn’t sure if he’d heard the door because he didn’t turn around.

She took a deep breath, “Ciao Nonno.” She called out, loud enough to snap him from wherever his brain was.

Nonno’s head swirled around, and a huge grin danced on his face, “If it isn’t my little Da Vinci!” He held out his arms.

Giselle almost cried with relief; he remembered her today. She rushed into his arms and held him tightly as she took in the familiar sandalwood smell of his soap. She inhaled, hmm, woody, earthy, and creamy.

“My little Giselle, what have you painted for me?” he asked and shoved over on his bed to make room for her.

“Well…” she began as she opened her satchel and took out her heavy, A4 sized art journal. “I have been painting something awesome.” She pulled the book out and opened to her latest creation. “Ta – da!”

Nonno’s mouth formed an O. “That’s a remarkable painting, my little Da Vinci.  You have captured the essence of it impeccably. You are truly an impressive young artist. I salute you!” He bowed his head.  Giselle dissolved into laughter. He always critiqued her art with his best art critique voice and fancy big words.

His light brown eyes shone, “So, do I get a treat?”

She nodded and covered her lips with her index finger. “Shh, Nonno. I don’t want the nurses to tell Grandmama.” She took out the brown baker’s bag and showed him the sweet goodness. He opened the bag and giggled like a child, “I will have this with my coffee tonight,” he promised.

For the next hour, Giselle filled Nonno on the latest at school, Mum, Grandmama, and the cousins. She noticed that he was quiet. At times, he nodded, other times, his eyes shifted from side to side, and occasionally he wringed his hands. Giselle frowned. Maybe she had imaged his unease.

“Oh, and Kiki and Em told me to say hi,” Giselle told him as she placed her art journal back in her satchel.

Nonno’s wrinkled brow deepened. “Who?”  

Giselle’s head snapped up. “You know, Emily and Katherine, the twins? I mean the triplets with Josh.”

Nonno shook his head, “I don’t know them. Do I?”

Giselle shook her head. “Nonno, it’s getting late, I have to get going.” She touched his arm and tried to smile. In seconds, she felt the light mood had shifted to a heavy one.

Nonno tapped a finger on his hand. “I don’t remember who they are. Do I know them? Did I lie to them too?” He repeated the sentence a few times, while the tap of his finger on his hand got faster.

Giselle frowned. Lie? What lie?

She leaned over and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Bye, Nonno. I love you.” Her voice shook a little as she bolted from the scene.

“Rosie. Rosie, wait!” he shouted to her.

Giselle bolted back inside. “It’s me, Nonno, Giselle, remember?”

His eyes were now glazed over. “Rosie, forgive me. Please forgive me.”

Giselle frowned. Why did he call her by grandmama’s nickname? She dumped her bag onto the ground and ran to his side. “It’s ok, Nonno. It’s ok.”

He was agitated, and tears streamed down his wrinkled face, a face she adored.

“I kept the locket, Rosie. I kept it. I couldn’t get rid of it. I kept it for her. I kept it for her.”

Giselle stared at her Nonno in utter confusion.  Locket?   

“I lied to you. Forgive me, Rosie.” He babbled on and on, and then he said, “Darling, read my book, read my book.”

Giselle leaned over and whispered, “What book Nonno?” Her voice barely audible.

“Read my book, my book. Read The Count of Chateau Laurent.” He grabbed her arm and dug his fingers into her soft skin. “Promise me, Rosie. Promise me!” He was hysterical by now.

Frantic, Giselle pressed the emergency bell, and in an instant doctors and nurses rushed in ready to calm him with medication.

“Honey, it’s better if you leave.” A nurse touched her arm sympathetically.

Giselle cleaned her tear-streaked face and nodded. She picked up her satchel and headed to the door.

“Read my book!” he screamed.

Just as the nurse pushed her out the door, Giselle made a mad dash to his side and cried, “I forgive you, and I will read the book.”

He exhaled, and his eyes began to flutter as the sedative took effect, “Thank you.” He whispered. “Thank you…. Giselle,” her name only a breath as he closed his eyes.

Giselle gasped at the sound of her name, and fresh tears streamed down her cheeks. By the time, she reached her bike she was sobbing uncontrollably. She sat on the concrete and cried till no tears came out. Her ribs and her throat ached.

As the last ray of sunlight started to disappear behind the mountains, she watched the sun sink and give its last rays for the day. Deep down, she knew she had seen her Nonno alive for the last time.

____________________________________________________________________________

Giselle shook her head as the horrible memories invaded her thoughts. She wiped her eyes and turned her back so Sophie wouldn’t see her when she returned. She had buried that traumatic day and hadn’t remembered the book until now. Her hands shook as she reached for the book. and picked it up. Little flakes of dust floated through the air and her cough. Something felt off with the book; it was light. She turned it over and gasped. It wasn’t a real book after all – it was hollow.

“It’s a box!” she exclaimed. Shocked, she opened the lid and saw a velvet pouch. Her fingers trembled as she picked it up and was about to open it when Sophie popped back in,

“Guess what?” Sophie exclaimed. “Kiki found the lights in the garage.

Giselle shut the lid in a hurry. “No way! Let’s go set them up.” She wiped her face one more time and pretended to laugh.

“Uh, did you find a book?” Sophie pointed to the book under her arm.

Giselle nodded. “Yeah, to read at night,” she lied.

The girls headed out, and Giselle bolted the door. She ran her hand down the front of the door and sighed.

Sophie oblivious to how she felt, started to talk about going back to school, her new uniform, and her dad’s business trip to England.

Giselle remained silent, lost in tangled thoughts.

As soon as she got in the house, she bolted to her room and hid the hollow book in her satchel. She would have to wait until she was home on Monday night to see what was inside Nonno’s mysterious box.

Chapter 3

Dear Diary,

We had a blast this weekend. It was one of the best weekends we’ve had in a long time. We had so much food I could not move for hours Lol. Except Emily, who ate enough to feed a zillion people, but she was like a bottomless pit, completely fine, and kept eating for us all. Well, in all fairness she’s pretty athletic and never stops running. I guess she burns it all.

Grandmama is an amazing cook, and she makes the yummiest vegetarian mock lamb. They were pretty much just for me cause I’m vegetarian, but everyone ended having one to ‘see what it tastes like’ – they were just jealous cause my food looked divine.

I have to admit that there were times during the party that I wanted to sneak away and open the hollow book.  I have been dying to see what’s in that pouch. It’s been torture waiting, I couldn’t even open it when I got home cause Uncle Mick and Sophie are home, and we ended up staying up with them. We sat outside on the verandah and watched the luxury yachts come in for the night. Uncle Mick has a beautiful yacht and sometimes takes Soph and me for a ride. Sometimes, he goes on his own and spends a few days alone. He misses Aunt Celeste who died when Soph was little. You know, I’m always creeped out that Mum and Uncle Mick lost their spouses.  I mean Uncle Mick lost his wife, and Mum lost Dad, and to make it weirder still, Mum and Uncle Mick are twins! I know, super creepy. My biggest fear is to lose my mum. Gives me chills. Anyways, I’m going to bed soon – am so exhausted, but I need to open that pouch now! Otherwise, I’m gonna go nuts.”

G x

Giselle sketched a little pouch on the bottom of the page, shut her book, and reached for the count of Chateau Laurent. Her hands trembled as she grabbed the pouch, drew the strings, and opened it.

Nestled safely at the bottom sat a locket. Very gently, Giselle took the locket and sucked in her breath. It was beautiful. The locket and chain were gold. A verdigris leaf was on one side with a delicate pink rose sitting on top and the front of the locket was decorated with two beautifully green dragonflies. Engraved on one side were the initial O.A.B.

She wondered who it belonged to and why Nonno had it. His words came floating back to her.  “I kept the locket, Rosie. I kept it. I couldn’t get rid of it. I kept it for her. I kept it for her.”

Had Nonno had an affair? Giselle’s hand flew to her throat. Oh, Nonno.

With a saddened heart she opened the locket. Inside were two different black and white photos. One had a lovely blond woman smiling, and on the other side was a photo with the profile of a baby boy with puckered lips ready to kiss the face of a man. She could only see the nose and lips of the man.

Giselle touched each photo carefully and wondered if Nonno had destroyed this woman’s family. She had obviously had a baby boy and a husband.

She studied the photo a little longer and then closed the locket with a loud click. Hold on, had she seen that woman before? Giselle opened the locket again and studied the woman face. The blond hair and smile seemed so familiar to her – had she visited Nonno at the house once? Or had she seen her at a park? Yes, that was it. The woman’s face was hazy but she had seen a beautiful woman with blond her at a park. She had been swinging back and forth, and the woman had smiled at her.

Giselle closed the locket with a thud tossed and tossed it back into its pouch. She couldn’t handle the thought of Nonno having a love affair.

She bit her bottom lip and decided that she needed to find out who this woman was. Giselle hoped his love affair had been before Grandmama. But deep down she knew, it didn’t sound right.  She remembered seeing that woman before.  There was no way she could tell her cousins and specially not Grandmama.

____________________________________________________________________________________

The day was a little overcast, but Giselle could still see the water and the birds soaring above.  They looked like they were migrating as the cooler days approached. The air smelled like salt and fish mingled into one. She could hear laughter around her. Giselle paused and realised she was the one that chuckled. She flew high on the swing and butterflies of delight danced in the pit of her stomach.

“Higher, Daddy! Higher, Daddy!”  she squealed. Her father grinned.

He pushed her with one hand and fixed his glasses with the other. Suddenly, Giselle shrank back as female hands reached out to grab her.  She gasped and tried to jump off the swing. She didn’t recognise those hands. Fear griped her heart as she wriggled desperately.

“Don’t touch me!” she screamed. “Don’t touch me!”

Tears streamed down her face, and in her desperation, she looked for her father.  Where was he? Hold on, was that Nonno?

The strange hands reached out and this time took hold of her waist and pulled her towards herself.

Giselle screamed and woke up.

The darkness and the rapid beat of her heart encircled her in the stillness of the night. The chirp of a cricket under her window made her jump,  and little goose bumps prickled her arms with the eeriness of the night and the nightmare. She reached over and turned her lamp on. She said a little prayer and asked God to calm her heart.

Her legs wobbled as she hopped out of bed, opened her drawer, took out her headphones, and plugged them in her timeworn phone. She scrolled through her music playlist and soothed her anxiety with some peaceful Christian music. The calm sound eased her soul, and soon she fell into a restless sleep.

Chapter 4

Dear Diary,

I barely slept last night. That creepy dream made me jump each time I thought of that woman’s hands. I don’t know why her hands and her presence make me shiver. And why were my dad and Nonno in my dream. Super weird. I’m also completely intrigued by that locket I found. My heart hurts each time I think about Nonno having an affair. I’ve hidden the pouch under my bed – there’s a little ledge where it sits perfectly. I don’t want Rosa the housekeeper who comes once a week to find it. It needs to remain my secret and Nonno’s.

Anyways, at least, I’m feeling better now. Having Sophie here has been sooooo good. She goes back to school Thursday, which means I get her for another few days. I miss her so much when she’s away. I wish she didn’t have to go back to boarding school. I mean, I get the whole thing of Uncle Mick wanting to forget Aunty Celeste, but to send Sophie away when she was young was cruel. Although he denies it and says it’s because he wasn’t home and couldn’t look after her. But I know the truth.

I’ve seen photos of Aunt Celeste, and as Sophie gets older, she looks like her. Seriously, they look like movie stars, blond, blue eyed, perfect bodies, tall and just drop dead gorgeous. Sometimes, I look at my body and grimace.  I’m tall, thin as a stick, and plain. Mum says I look so much like my dad. Even my hair turned brunet as I got older. Ugh. Anyways, I don’t know why I’m freaking about my looks – maybe I’m nervous cause I’m starting senior year this year. So much pressure. I need to do well. I want to study art, have a studio, teach painting and drawing, and travel the world. How cool would that be? My dream is to go to Europe when I finish school. I think Europe would have the most amazing art culture in the world. Ah, just the thought paralyses me with joy. I need to save a ton of money to travel. Sophie wants to come with me – even Kiki and Emily. So, even though Europe has the best art stuff, the real reason I want to go is because I need to visit my dad’s grave. He’s buried in Bristol, where I was born. Mum says that since Dad was very artsy, he loved Bristol because it’s filled with music and history and creativity. Dad was mostly inspired in Bristol. He was an awesome painter. I’ve seen his work, but Mum keeps some in the garage safely covered.

Anyways, I better get ready for dinner. Uncle Mick home so the four of us are having dinner together. That barely happens so I can’t wait!

I’ve been cooking up a storm with Sophie. We love to cook but barely gets time to do it. We’ve had a blast! Hope they like the food.

G x

Giselle sketched two chefs in the corner, closed her journal, and headed out the door. The delicious smell of roasted potatoes wafted to her room. Her stomach grumbled.

Downstairs, her mum was setting the table with Sophie, and soft music played in the background.  Giselle paused at the bottom of the stairs and watched them for a few minutes. They laughed about something, and Sophie eyes sparkled. Giselle guessed she was probably thinking about her mum.

Sophie lifted her blond head and said, “Finally, the chef graces us with her presence.” She laughed.

Giselle snickered and walked towards them. “Well, I had to change. I couldn’t wear my clothes smelling like food. Besides, Em and Kik’s gave me this cute dress, and I had to wear it.”

Mum looked her daughter up and down and wolf whistled. “Oh honey you look gorgeous. That’s a beautiful, floral, embroidered dress.”

Giselle did a twirl, “It’s the perfect summer dress.”

Sophie nodded and said, “Plus, it shows off your figure.” She winked.

Giselle let out a big loud cackle. What figure? Sophie needed to get her eyes checked.

“I’m starved.” Uncle Mick interrupted her amused thoughts.

Giselle turned around and smiled He was out of his business clothes and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. No one would know he was a millionaire dressed like that. Except, maybe his good looks might give him away.

“Food is ready, Daddy,” Sophie said.

“Yeah, we’ll go serve.” Giselle hurried to the kitchen as her mum followed close behind. “Hmm, Ma, please go sit down. I want to serve with Soph and spoil you and Uncle Mick.”

Her mother tucked her bobbed blond hair behind her ear and grinned, “Sounds perfect to me.” She winked and headed to sit with her twin at the dining table.

“Aunty Lusi is just the coolest,” Sophie gushed as she took out the kebabs from the oven. “When I’m 38 like her, I want to look as good as she and go with the flow as she does.”

“Yeah, I love her carefree spirit Soph, but I wish she would settle down and find a great job.” Giselle tucked an escaped strand of her hair behind her side braid.

“She does have a job.” Sophie paused.

“Not anymore. She dumped it.” Giselle bit her bottom lip as she tossed the salad.  “She lasts only about three weeks in each place. She doesn’t really like anything.”

Sophie chuckled. “That is totally true. I guess she hasn’t found her thing.”

Giselle placed the salad to one side and drizzled pesto over her roasted potatoes. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. But the awesome thing is that she has an interview coming up. I hope this job sticks.” Giselle cocked her head to one side. She opened her mouth to continue but was interrupted by Uncle Mick’s voice.

“We’re starved! Is the food ready yet? I think I’m going to collapse!” he hollered.

Sophie and Giselle rolled their eyes and laughed.

“Daddy! You’re such a baby,” Sophie called back. She picked up the kebab tray and headed to the dining room. Giselle followed behind with the roasted potatoes in one hand and the salad bowl in the other.

“Giselle, you look like a pro waitress handling those dishes!” Sophie remarked as she set the kebabs down and took a seat.

Giselle winked and placed her dishes onto the table. “I feel like one.” She laughed.

Uncle Mick whistled, “This food looks delectable! Let’s eat.” He reached for a kebab.

Mum snorted. “Not so fast, we’re going to say grace first.”

Everyone laughed.

Uncle Mick bowed his head and asked the blessing.

_________________________________________________________________________

“These kebabs are delizioso!” He took another bite as the juice dripped down his chin.

Sophie giggled, “Daddy, you eat at the finest restaurants in the world. I’m sure you’ve eaten better kebabs in Istanbul or wherever.”

“Soph does have a point,” Mum added as she wiped her mouth.

“Yes, you’re both right, but their food always lacks something.” He paused.

Soph and Giselle looked at each other and frowned, “What?” they asked in unison.

“Love.” He smiled.

Giselle and Sophie burst out with laugher as Giselle’s mum groaned.

“It’s true!”  Uncle Mick exclaimed. “It’s like this.” He moved his finger in a circle and pointed from Giselle all the way to his sister. “Us together. It’s so good having home cooked food and being with each other.   Believe it or not, I miss it..”

Giselle’s heart ached for her uncle. Sophie reached out and grabbed his hand.

“When’s your next trip, Mick?” Mum asked as she ate the last of her potatoes.

“I leave for England on Friday. I’ll drop Soph at school on Thursday and then drive back and sleep at a hotel near the airport.” He took a sip of his mineral water.

Giselle gasped, “Oh Uncle Mick, I’m dying to go to England! I wish I could go with you.”

“I would love for you to go along with me,” he said.

Giselle shook her head. “Not now though. I’m starting year the eleventh grade in a few days and can’t go anywhere.”

 Sophie pouted. “Gi, just wait till you finish the twelfth grade, and then we can go around Europe together.”  

Giselle squealed, and the girls grabbed each other’s hands, “How cool will that be!”

“That’s a wise plan,” Uncle Mick began. “Start planning, and you can have the time of your lives. I might go with you girls to keep you safe.” He laughed when Sophie’s face paled.

  “I actually have a plan,” Giselle announced. She glanced at everyone around the table, taking special note of her mum’s expressionless face and crossed arms. Giselle frowned but continued. “I want to start working part time so I can afford the trip by the end of my senior year.  That’ll give me two years to save.”

“Europe is too expensive. You will need to save at least five years.” Her mum’s sharp tone burst her enthusiasm like little soap bubble being pricked by rough hands.

“Daddy could always pay,” Sophie offered.

Giselle’s mum lifted her hand when Uncle Mick opened his mouth. “No charity, Mick. I know you will offer to pay. If I send my daughter overseas, it’ll be at my own expense.”

“Mum, I don’t expect you to pay. I will save really hard, and I’ll have plenty,” Giselle cried out.

“I don’t have a problem paying for Giselle,” Uncle Mick stated.

Giselle’s mum pointed her index finger at her brother and said, “Mick you promised you wouldn’t interfere with my decisions regarding Giselle. She isn’t going and that’s final!” She stood up abruptly, and the sound of a fork hitting the shiny, wooden floor rang out.  She grabbed her plate and stormed towards the kitchen.

Giselle stared after her mum. She felt like the air had been sucked out of her soul.

Just as her mum was about to go through the door, she turned and stared straight at Giselle, her grey-green eyes narrowed, “I don’t want you to work. Concentrate on your studies. Don’t be a failure like me.” With those words, she disappeared inside.

Silence seemed to suffocate the room.

Her face burning, Giselle rung her hands. She felt as if she’d been slapped across the face.

Chapter 5

Giselle felt tears gather in the corner of her eyes. She blinked rapidly and took a long shaky breath.

Uncle Mick was the first one to speak, “Ok girls, I’m going to help Lusi clean the kitchen.” He stood up and stretched. “I suggest you go for a long walk.” He winked, grabbed a stack of plates, and headed to the kitchen.

Giselle turned to Sophie and whispered, “Let’s go.”

Sophie nodded and stood up abruptly.

Giselle tightened her arms across her chest and rubbed them briskly. The night air was a little crisp near the marina. Tiny lights reflected on the water and yachts, and somewhere in the distance, soft romantic music played.

“You ok, Gi?” Sophie’s voice broke through her muddled brain.

Giselle nodded. “She was so mad, Soph, I have never seen her so angry.” Giselle shivered involuntarily.

The girls continued their walk in silence. Finally, Giselle spoke again, “I mean, I get she doesn’t have a steady income and can’t send me. But I offered to work and pay for Europe. It’s in two years’ time anyways.” Giselle exhaled and let the wind take her frustrations away.

“It’s not your fault though “Sophie began. “She just doesn’t want you to work and be…. what did she say? A failure or something.”

Giselle shook her head, “She’s not a failure Soph. She got a bachelor of business at the university way before she met dad.”

“Did Grandmama force her to choose business?” Sophie asked as they headed towards the town centre.

“No, she liked business, but she couldn’t decide what business she wanted.” Giselle shrugged. “That’s the story of her life.” A wave of guilt washed over her. She didn’t mean to talk about her mum.

“Gi, I have a brilliant idea!” Sophie grabbed Giselle’s arm and squeezed it. They stopped in the middle of the pathway.

The tingling of a bike bell sounded behind them signalling for them to move

“Sorry,” Giselle called out and waved as a family rode passed. She turned back to Sophie and asked, “What brilliant idea?”

“I can sell some of my jewellery and pay for your airfare! That way you don’t have to work, and you’ll keep the peace with your mum.” Sophie let out a squeal. “Brilliant, right?”

“Soph, are you nuts? I mean you’re super sweet, but you can’t get rid of them. They were your mum’s!” Giselle watched as her eyes clouded over and her smile disappear into the night.

“Oh, I forgot.” She touched her delicate rose-gold necklace and walked away.

Giselle groaned and ran to catch up with her. “Sorry, Soph, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Sophie wiped her eyes and spun around, “Don’t be silly, you didn’t make me sad. It’s just that sometimes I miss her so much that I can’t breathe.”

Giselle nodded, linked arms with Sophie, and said, “Let’s go to Kim’s Deli Café. I think a chocolate caramel bliss ball is in order!”

Sophie sniffled and gave a quick nod. “Sounds heavenly.”  

The girls walked towards their favourite café where the aromatic smell of wood fire pizza, roasted nuts, fresh coffee, and light happy music danced around them. It lifted their spirits, and soon the argument and Aunt Celeste were temporarily forgotten.

“Uh, I love the lights! They still haven’t …” Giselle stopped to fix her Apache style sandal. “Ugh, these shoes are giving me blisters!”

“Where did you get them? They are pretty ugly.” Sophie’s disgusted voice made Giselle groan.

“Gee thanks, Soph.” Giselle pretended to pout as she unclasped her shoes. “Actually, I found them at a Salvos store.” She took her long feet out of the shoes and wriggled them in relief. “They were only $2. How could I not buy them?”

“They are also too small.” Sophie wrinkled her delicate upturned nose. “I have a pair of gold sandals to die for. You can have them if you want.”

“Soph, I don’t need new shoes!” Giselle protested.

Sophie’s baby blue eyes twinkled. “Oh, but you’ll love these! They are Tory Logan ones. Daddy got it for me last Christmas, but they are too big. I think they’ll fit you though.”

Giselle didn’t have a clue who Tory whoever was. Maybe it was one of those $300 dollar sandals that were expensive but boring. No style. No feathers, shells, or colour to them. But maybe not! Then again, her feet were killing her.

“I can buy them off you.” Giselle picked up her shoes and walked barefoot on the cool and rough concrete walkway.

“Nah, they’re my gift to you.” Sophie flicked her long blond tresses. “Anyways, back to helping you make money.”

“Well, I was freaking out when Mum had that outburst, but the walk has helped, and I’m gonna get a job.” Giselle pointed to Kim’s Café as it came into view. “I’m gonna get a job there!”

Sophie gasped. “What? How’d you know they need anyone?”

“Well, remember last year when Silver was looking for a necklace for her bell pendant?” Giselle stopped in front of the big display window adorned with now empty platters of food.

Sophie looked into the window too.  “Yeah. What about it?”

“There it is!” Giselle almost shouted as she grabbed Sophie by the arm and pulled her towards the sign. “We saw this when we came with the cousins.” Giselle touched the words behind the glass and read it to Sophie,

“Part time waitress needed. Drop you resume. Start ASAP!”

“Oh yeah, now I remember!” Sophie exclaimed. “Sorry to burst your bubble, Gi, but there’s one problem.”

Giselle’s brown wrinkled. “What?’

“Since you’re only 16, you need your mum’s permission.” Sophie patted her arm. “It won’t work.”

Giselle bit her bottom lip, “Uh, I’ve got it. It doesn’t have to be mum; it can be an adult.”

“Which adult will you get?” Sophie turned to look at her. “Every member of our family is out. They’ll tell your mum.”

“I’ll ask Rachel Craig. She’s awesome. She’ll do it.” Giselle did a little dance. “Gee I’m brilliant.” She laughed.

Sophie clapped. “Ok, perfect. You can ask Rachel tomorrow. Now, go in and ask about the job.”

“Wish me luck!” Giselle pushed the door open, and the little bell above the door jiggled to announce their visit. She put on her shoes and grimaced as they scraped her bubbling blisters.

The smell of salami and coffee wafted through the air, and Giselle wriggled her nose in distaste. She didn’t hate the smell as such, but the smell of meat made her nose sensitive. She took a deep breath and headed to the counter to ask for Kim.

Sophie whispered something about finding a seat, but her heartbeat drowned her words.

Giselle said a quick prayer for strength and instantly felt shame. She was about to lie and she just asked for God to help her.   

“Can I help you?” The male voice behind her made her jump as she spun around to see who it belonged to.

A guy with shaggy, sandy blond hair, gorgeous green eyes, and a knee weakening smile was standing right behind her.

Gisselle opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out.

The guy grinned. “Hey, it’s you! I know you,” he exclaimed as he shifted his tray to his left arm.

Giselle gaped. “You do?” She squinted; he did look familiar. Did he go to her school? Maybe a year ahead of her?

“Yeah, I’ve seen you hang out here with a bunch of girls.” He pointed to a booth. “And you always sit in that booth.”

Giselle gasped. Should she be creeped out? He continued. “I’ve noticed you for a while. I’m glad I finally get to meet you.” His cheeks dimpled as his voice and eyes softened.

Giselle’s knees turned to jelly, and suddenly she needed to sit down. She grabbed onto a nearby table.

Finally, she broke her silence, “Oh, wow, ok. Thanks.” She felt her face burn. She hoped she didn’t sound completely inept at making conversation. “Um, I… I was looking for Kim.”

“She’s in the back. I’ll get her.” He grinned one more time and disappeared to the back.

Giselle turned to Sophie, who sat at their usual booth. Giselle mouthed, “He’s gorgeous.”

 Sophie mouthed back, “Who is he?”  

Giselle shrugged. She wasn’t sure, but she wanted to know.

“Hi, I’m Kim. Can I help you?” At the sound of the female voice, Giselle turned around and smiled.

“Hi,” she managed to say as she glanced behind Kim’s shoulder to see where the cute   guy was. She saw him near the counter. He looked at her, and their eyes met. Giselle glanced away and looked at the owner.

“Oh, Giselle, it’s you. How can I help?” Kim tucked part of her blond bob behind one ear and motioned for them to move to the back of the cafe.

Giselle cleared her throat, “I was wondering about the sign at the door, the one about a part time waitress.”

“Are you interested in applying?”  Kim opened a book and wrote down Giselle’s name.

Giselle nodded. “Yes please. I don’t have a resume yet, but I can have it to you this week.”

Kim placed the pen down and smiled. “Come by this Thursday at four for an interview.”

Giselle inhaled sharply. “Really?”

“Yes, I’ve known you and your whole family for years. I know you are a good kid. Bring your resume with you.” Kim took out a form from a drawer and handed it over to her. “I need this paper signed with your mum’s signature giving you permission to work.”

Giselle nodded slowly, “About that.” She paused before saying, “My mentor Rachel from church is going to sign it. She’s the pastor’s wife. My mum is working all the time, and I never have time to catch her.” She shifted uncomfortably from one sore foot to the other.

“No problem. That should work nicely.” Kim smiled. “See you Thursday.”

“Thanks again. See you then.” Giselle gave a little wave and headed to where Sophie sat.

She plunked onto the chair and exhaled. “I’ve got an interview this Thursday after school! Yikes.”

“YES!” Sophie squealed softly. “You’ll definitely get it.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” Giselle glanced back to find the guy, but he wasn’t around. Maybe was at the back.

“So, who was that guy?” Sophie leaned forward and wiggled her brows. “He’s cute.”  

Giselle lifted her shoulders. “I don’t know, but he said he’s noticed me before when I come with you guys.”

“What! He said that?” Sophie covered her mouth. “Tell me everything.”

Giselle giggled, leaned forward, and whispered, “He said he’s noticed me for a while and was glad to finally meet me.”

Sophie clutched her own face with both hands, “Oh, Gi, too romantic!” She gushed.

Giselle nodded. Plain Giselle had an admirer. She couldn’t believe it.

END OF PREVIEW

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