"Discarded Treasures"

Chapter 1

By davisr (Rhonda)

A bolt of lightning shot from a low hanging cloud and hit a tree a few feet from Liliana. Instinctively, she screamed. Not the scream of the damned, nor even of the afflicted, but the scream of a woman at the end of her rope.

Did darkness actually have a scent? Liliana thought it did. Perhaps it was just the rain and subsequent mud, or even the distant odor of a burning car, but there was definitely a scent.

Getting trapped in a flaming inferno had always been a secret fear of hers, and now she had come close to its realization. She had barely escaped her crumpled vehicle before it burst into flames.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. She'd been on a reflective journey, exploring the historical past of her family, when the storm broke out. After she lost control of her car, it crashed into a tree. Was it too much to ask the Universe for healing relaxation, or even a chance to restart her life?

Leaving the comfort of her mother's home after a particularly nasty breakup with her ex-husband had been difficult enough, but then this. Was she being punished for old sins, or was this storm just a way of washing away a past too difficult to comprehend? She figured she picked her excursions about as well as she picked her men.

A second bolt of lightning lit up the turbulent sky. An almost compulsive counting of seconds between strike and responding thunder was interrupted by a clap of thunder like the report of artillery. Liliana covered an ear with one hand and attempted to pull her suit jacket closer with the other. Feet, covered in flood waters, fought to follow the road she had been traveling on before the accident.

Bracing against hurricane-like wind, she struggled with deepening water and sucking mud. Cute, wire-framed glasses slid dangerously close to the tip of her nose. She let go of her ear to grab the offending spectacles, but not before they whipped off her face. Great! She had no spare.

Another crack of lightning, this one so near she detected the odor of ozone it produced, painfully pierced her eyes. She uttered a cry of fear and frustration as her purse tore off her shoulder and swept away in a stream of liquid blackness.

"Never leave the scene of a wreck." The warning of generations of parents echoed in her mind. "It's easier to find someone where the accident occurs."

"Yes, yes," she cried out to the collective. "I get it, but I hit my head, and wanted away from the burning car." The collective offered neither criticism nor comfort.

Alone and exhausted, Liliana pressed forward, grasping at branches alongside what she assumed was the road. She could feel objects bumping against her legs, others striking her arms and body. Some were gentle, like the caress of unseen angel wings, and others cutting and painful.

A fresh blast of wind partnered with a burst of of thunder and lightning and forced Liliana off her feet. She could feel herself washing down the flood-born watercourse. She wished she no longer cared, but somewhere inside, where the remnants of hope lived, she heard the sounds of her parents' voices encouraging her.

Her mother's words were soft and supportive, as always. She had no stronger motivator, no greater advocate.

Her deceased father's remarks were more forceful. His love and endorsement had been ever-present, but rather than blindly backing what she wanted, he was the one who had driven her forward. The one to tell her to never give up.

"Stay sicced," he'd often say. He was referencing his experiences with the Pit Bull, Trixie, he was raised with. When her grandfather sicced her on something, the massive dog would hang on until he called her off, no matter how much damage she incurred in the process.

Liliana tried to take his advice and continue to struggle against the elements. She pictured Trixie hanging onto a bull's nose or on the throat of an attacking dog. It helped for awhile, but finally, when fatigue replaced thought, she went under and felt water closing in. As a final act of her body, her arm convulsively jerked out and got hung on a branch amidst the wreckage.

A moment passed, and then another as Liliana hovered between life and death. Her eyes closed in silent acceptance.

A voice interrupted, forcing her to focus. "Stay sicced," it said, and then repeated. The sound was louder than the gale whipping about, and louder than despair. She reached out with her other hand and caught the branch.

Slowly and painfully, Liliana pulled herself to the stable limb. Hand over hand, she struggled against the branch until her head was above water. With a mighty gasp, she breathed in cold, refreshing air.

She rested for a while until a trace of strength returned to her body. She grasped the branch harder and began to tug. Her fingers were stiff from the cold, and weak from fatigue, but she pressed on.

Finally, her body emerged from the blackened water. A few more desperate tugs, and she was lying in a pile of debris. She could hear the raging storm, but couldn't be reached by its fury.

In the midst of disaster, Liliana had a chance to reflect on what had brought her here to Douglasville, Georgia, a place she had heard about all her life, but only recently really planned to visit.

Author Notes My first novel in quite a while, please wish me luck! This is the first chapter, so if you just started reading, you haven't missed anything yet.

Stay Sicced:

This phrase refers to the term, sic' em, that you would tell a dog when you want them to attack.
I actually took this from personal experience. My father grew up in West Texas in a wilderness setting on a cotton sharecropper farm. They had a pit bull named, Trixie, who was trained to fight. She was a rescue, and my grandfather never used her in the forbidden sport, but she was a priceless herd dog who often saved my father and his siblings from harm. Once sicced onto something, she wouldn't let go.

Liliana Louise Langley: Main female character who will help run the Discarded Treasures project
Dr. Floyd Rivers: A man of uncertain age that heads a project and group home called, Discarded Treasures.

Artwork from Google Public Domain, and edited by author

Chapter 2
Motivation for Change

By davisr (Rhonda)

Summary of Chapter 1:

Liliana Langley, a woman we know little about yet, was caught in a storm after a crash destroyed her car. A stranger in the land, she struggled against the fury of the storm and flooding waters. The chapter ended with her sheltering at the base of a tree, and contemplating what led her to such a wretched series of events. Chapter 2 begins with her reflection on the past.

Chapter 2:

"It's always cold here." Liliana pushed her creaking chair from the computer and looked through a window to her right. Chills shook her body, though the air inside the house was 72 degrees.

"It's winter in Indiana, Dear, what do you expect?" Joyce Langley asked her daughter.

Liliana rose and gazed out at the scenic fenced-in yard around their house. It was the product of her mother's requirement for personal space in the 100-acre ranch on which they lived, and the culmination of years of hard work on all their parts. It would always be her happy place, a retreat her mind would wander to in times of trouble.

In warmer months, the yard exhibited a wide array of decorative flowers and shrubs, some native, others imported and carefully cultivated to thrive in the cool, but fertile, soils of the Midwest United States.

In the center of the space, stood a swing-set Liliana's father had crafted from iron, and that she and her siblings had spent many hours playing on, absorbed in wonderlands of their own creations. At the back, leaning beside a massive White Ash, was a playhouse that now served as storage for Liliana's hastily gathered possessions.

Liliana watched as a brisk wind whipped the Ash, slinging its limbs one way and then another as though not certain which direction to blow. Wisps of dry snow danced around the yard like so many angry white fairies, and it was only November.

"I don't know, Mom, I guess I just feel the need to be warm."

"Mama," Joyce corrected.


"Mama. Proper Southern Girls call their mothers, Mama."

"We aren't in the South. We're in Indiana, remember, where it's cold all the time?"

"Of course I know where we live, and I'm well aware of the temperature," Joyce said, "but we're not from here."

"You're not, but I am." Liliana shook her head and turned to face her only living parent. She could see her mother's familiar smile and smell the scent of her favorite perfume, Fame. These images eased Liliana's angst.

"That's fair," Joyce said, but her countenance spoke otherwise. She held her daughter's eye. Joyce had insisted her two children learn native Southern culture, as much as she insisted there was a fenced yard on their ranch.

Liliana smiled with indulgence born of habit. It was more than just the personal power her mother exuded that swayed her thoughts, but some sort of internal drive to feel a part of a culture as old as the country itself. She conceded, "I guess I must have inherited the Southern need for warm weather."

"Yes, yes, you're just like me, and in more ways than you realize."

"But I look more like Dad."

"That, you do, God rest his soul. You definitely got your height and weight from him. You're solid and built strong, and you have his pretty curls."

"I miss those curls." Liliana said. "They gave him a boyish charm, even after they turned gray. It hardly seems like five years since he passed away."

"You know, I thought we'd always be together, he and I, and I certainly didn't imagine my Golden Years spent without him."

Joyce paused a moment in somber reflection, then abruptly changed the subject. She couldn't afford to stay melancholy for long. Depression was a terrible enemy, and one she knew Liliana struggled with as well. "So, how's your job hunting going?"

"Not well." Liliana gathered her long hair into a knot on the back of her head, slipped a scrunchy hair band off her wrist and produced a quick, ill-defined bun. She returned to her chair with a petulant flop. Why did her mother's house always make her feel like an adolescent?

"Why not? You've had ten year's experience as a teacher in inner city public schools, principal certification, and three years as an elementary school assistant principal. It's an impressive portfolio. No one's going to care that you're in the middle of a divorce."

"These days, I think everyone else is, too. No, that's not it."

"Then what?"

"I'm not sure, Mama." Liliana corrected her choice of appellation out of respect. "It's just there isn't anything I can find I really want to do here in Brown County. I might just as well keep the job I have in Indianapolis and deal with the commute."

Joyce leaned against the edge of the recliner and looked at her daughter over the top of her glasses. She had spent her life in education as well, and the look she gave was, well, teacherly. "You can do anything you set your mind to. Don't let what happened between you and Donald set the tone for the rest of your life."

"Mother! This isn't about Donald."

"Isn't it?"

Liliana shuddered again, only this time it had nothing to do with temperature. Maybe it was about Donald. No matter how successful she had been in life, he had always found a way to tear her down. She had the physical and emotional scars to prove it.

"You definitely need a change, Darling." Joyce seemed to immediately sense her daughter's shift in mood. She tapped her finger on the edge of the chair and raised her eyebrows. "You want to be warm, so, maybe, you need to do like the geese and fly south."

Liliana tried to whirl in the creaking desk chair and face her mother. The motion, clunky at best, didn't have the smooth, defiant grace Liliana had hoped for, but, then gracefulness had never been her defining quality.

"My life is here on the farm with you. I promised to come and help you. I only want a change of venue, not to abandon the people I love."

"You wouldn't be abandoning us, Darling. Your brother can take care of this place by himself, just like your daddy and I did. Michael has his own house, a wife that loves him, and three kids for motivation."

"So, you don't need me?"

"I'll always need you, Sweetheart. I'm just saying we can run the farm without you. Look, Liliana, you and Donald didn't have any kids, you have no car payment, and no longer own property."

"And how is this a good thing?"

"Well, it means you have few real responsibilities, and it's as good a time as any to start over."

"But what about you? We've always lived close enough to support each other."

"Who knows, if things work out, I may want to fly south, too. There's no more to keep me here than there is you. Believe me, the corn and soybeans will grow without us, and the cows will produce milk and calves."

"Where would we go?"

"You remember me telling you about your Great Aunt Vera?"

"The one in Atlanta who passed away a couple of years ago?"

"Well, Douglasville, but, yes."

"Sure, she ran a girls' school down there didn't she?"

"It was at one point, Liliana, but if you'll remember, she changed it before she died to a sort of hybrid nursing home and school. She called it a group home."

"No, I don't remember that, but I'll take your word for it. Are you suggesting I move to Georgia and take over the business?"

"No, Aunt Vera left the place to her former partner, a marvelous gentleman named Dr. Floyd Rivers, and I hear he's looking for help."

"Help?" Liliana raised a manicured eyebrow. "Doing what?"

"Teaching, Dear," Joyce said. She leaned over to look at her youngest, her soft hazel eyes sparkling with the hint of adventure.

"Teaching at a group home? You've got to be kidding me? I'm not the trailblazing type."

"You don't have to be. The trail has already been blazed by Aunt Vera and Dr. Rivers. All you have to do is show up for an interview, and if you like it and he likes you, then you can move there and get your new start."

"It sounds like you've given this a lot of thought."

"I have, and once you've settled in, then, maybe, I'll join you and see if they have something for me to do as well. There's a part of me that wants to get back into teaching, too. Really, Darling, it's just that easy."

Just that easy...

A mere month after that conversation, Liliana clung to a tree in the crushing storm. Why hadn't she stayed in Indiana with her family where she'd been safe? For that matter, why had she left Donald to begin with? She'd had a good job and her Ex-husband was nice to her most of the time. Once again, she felt cold, wretched and alone.

How long she crouched in the sheltering roots of that tree, Liliana would never guess, but it seemed forever. The storm raged ever on, and the scent of destruction enveloped her.

Finally, piercing the darkness of nature and soul, came sudden, blinding lights. Liliana heard the screech of tires and the odor of burning rubber. How could rubber burn in flood waters, how could tires screech. Perhaps it was her overwrought imagination? What she did hear for certain, was a door slamming. Liliana watched the figure of a tall, well-built man appear in the headlights of a large vehicle.

"Are you okay?" The man's voice penetrated the roar of rain and wind.

"I don't think so." It was an honest reply. Liliana was too miserable for bravado. "I lost control of my car in the storm. It hit a tree and caught fire, and I got swept away by the flood while trying to escape."

"Poor thing. Yeah, I saw the car. It looked pretty bad. Come on and get in my truck. I'll get you some help."

Liliana hesitated.

"I'm not a serial killer, I promise."

"It's not that. I don't think I can move."

"No problem." The man grasped her by the back of her jacket and pulled her through the water as easily as a father would guide his child through a swimming pool.

Liliana felt herself lifted into a seat. Relieved beyond belief, she sank into the comforting cushions of his truck. She heard the man get into the driver's seat and slam the door, muffling the sounds of the rampant storm.

"Where to?"

"Oh," Liliana hadn't thought about where she had been heading for a while. "Can you take me to a hotel? I've got an interview tomorrow morning and need to try to find a way to get ready. I'm afraid I've lost everything, but I can call my mother from there."

"Don't worry, lost is my specialty. Where's your interview?"

"At a place called, Discarded Treasures. Do you know where it is?"

The man smiled. "I know it well, and I think you're my 9 am appointment. Hi, I'm Dr. Rivers, and if you don't mind, I'll go ahead and take you to the school. We have plenty of empty rooms."

"That would be wonderful."

In spite of the storm and her predicament, Liliana felt comforted in the presence of the stranger, just as she had been while resting in the debris at the foot of the tree.

Author Notes Sorry it's so long, and I thank you for taking time to read it. I usually opt for shorter chapters, but this one had to reflect back on chapter one.

Liliana Louise Langley: Main female character who will help run the Discarded Treasures project

Joyce Langley: Liliana's mother

Dr. Floyd Rivers: A man of uncertain age that heads a project and group home called, Discarded Treasures.

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