Rhapsody in Dreams

Excerpt

Prelude

1992

Kira Wagner died when she was six.

The house where she lived with her parents and her baby brother collapsed,

burying them alive. They were discovered the next day.

By then, Kira’s parents and the baby were long gone; she was breathing, but

just barely. In the ambulance, during the mad dash to the hospital, her heart

suddenly stopped. In medical terminology—she flat-lined. For the next six

impossibly long minutes, her heart stood still, refusing to pump blood and depriving her brain of oxygen. Two paramedics, who were grim, dirty, and exhausted, immediately started CPR and delivered her to the Emergency Center in record time, all things considered.

Then the doctors took over the fight for saving the little girl, one of the

thousands of victims of the deadliest hurricane in the history of Florida that had

such a ridiculously poetic name—Andrew.

Kira’s heart stubbornly refused to re-start even after a high-voltage shock was applied to her chest for the third time. It made her little body arch and bounce, and it burned her skin, leaving ugly marks. And then, when the doctor was about to pronounce her dead and turned his head to read the time of death off the ER wall clock, her heart suddenly began to beat again, and Kira took a shallow breath.

Her eyes opened, and she asked in her clear, high-pitched voice, “Where is Albert?”

Movement One. Allegro Moderato

Chapter One

Adelina Wagner was sitting in a hospital waiting room, stiff and chilled to the bone. Her mind still refused to get in sync with reality, reeling from the shock.

Her son was dead, and so were her daughter-in-law and her grandson, baby JJ. The horror of this news was so enormously overwhelming that she couldn’t accept it yet. Her brain knew, but it refused to deal with it.

The five-hour drive to the hospital went by in a blur. She didn’t even remember how she got there. After the morning call from Miami, she ran to the door of her shop, jumped into the car, and peeled out of the parking lot, heading south. She didn’t remember if she closed the shop.

Oh, Emma was there too, Adelina realized, still dazed. Emma was already chatting with the first customers when the phone near the cash register started to ring, so Adelina took the call that changed her life forever. Before and after.

Her whole family, she’d been told, had perished in a hurricane.

“All of them?!”

“Please accept our deepest condolences, Mrs. Wagner…Oh, I’m sorry, ma’am, my mistake—your granddaughter is listed as critical.”

Her little Kira was found alive but in bad shape, she was told. Multiple bruises and lacerations, moderate to severe concussion, one dislocated shoulder; she had also suffered a cardiac arrest.

My God,Adelina thought, how much more could the fragile six-year-old body withstand?!

Until she arrived at the Humana Hospital in Pembroke Pines, where all the victims of Hurricane Andrew were taken, Adelina didn’t know if Kira had survived.

Even now, sitting in a crowded waiting room, surrounded by so much pain and grief she could almost touch it, she didn’t know if her little girl was alive.

Finally, the doctor stepped into the room and called her name. Adelina sprung to her feet. She beseechingly searched the harried face of the doctor, who seemed to be too young to shave until you looked into his ancient eyes.

“Kira…?”

“Alive. We managed to bring her back.”

Adelina sagged against the wall, clamping her mouth with her hand to muffle the cry. Thank God, oh, thank you, God! she screamed on the inside. Her little girl was alive. Kira has survived.

“She was asking about Albert. Her father?”

Adelina looked at the doctor, too shell-shocked to process his question. After a moment, she shook her head. “No. No, her father’s name is…was Richard.” Her voice shook. Was. Her son, her dear boy was dead! The pain was enormous, debilitating and sharp; it was tearing her to a million tiny pieces, threatening to swallow her alive.

Can’t give up, Adelina kept repeating like a mantra. Need to be strong. For Kira, for my baby girl. Must be strong.

Kira was alive, thank God, and she was her responsibility now.

“Do you know who this Albert person might be?” the doctor asked again.

“No…I don’t know. Maybe her friend? I don’t know, doctor. Why?”

“Just curious. It was the first thing she said.” The first and only, the doctor thought.

“Has she asked about her parents? Her brother?”

“No. Just about this Albert.”

My God, Adelina realized that she would be the one to tell the little girl about her family. She briefly closed her eyes, then shook her head. It wasn’t the time to feel sorry for herself. There would be time for that later. For now, she must think only about Kira.

Adelina took a deep breath. “What exactly did she say?”
“She said, ‘Where is Albert?’”

“‘Where is Albert?’ What…what could that mean?”

“I guess it doesn’t matter,” the doctor answered, a bit brusquely. “What matters is that your granddaughter is alive and breathing on her own again.”

“Yes, yes, of course.” Adelina dismissed the subject of this Albert, asking the most important question. “What is her prognosis, doctor? Please be honest with me. Did she suffer any serious trauma?”

“Luckily, no, which is a miracle in itself. Her brain shows no after-effects of oxygen deprivation; her heart is beating strongly. She is one extremely lucky girl.”

“Miracle, indeed,” Adelina whispered.

“She has some lacerations, some bruises, but nothing life-threatening. We’ll keep her overnight and monitor her concussion closely, but if everything goes uneventfully, she’ll be ready to leave in the morning. Are you the one who’ll be taking care of her?”

“Yes.”

She and Kira’s maternal grandparents, who were living on a small farm in Ohio, were the only family Kira had left.

God, Adelina thought, closing her eyes, I have to call Magda and Paul and shatter their world with the horrible news.

Listed as an emergency contact for both her son and her daughter-in-law, Adelina had been easily located by the authorities the very next day after the tragedy. Plus, she lived in the Sunshine State too, just a few hours north of Miami by car in the quaint, historical St. Augustine.

“Yes,” she repeated. “I’ll be taking care of her now.”

Kira was released the next day. She was unnaturally quiet. As a matter of fact, she didn’t speak a single word except “Oma,” acknowledging Adelina’s presence when she first saw her. She didn’t smile, just looked at her with huge, clear eyes that somehow had changed color from the quiet grey she was born with to deep aquamarine blue. The change was eerie, to say the least. Adelina was chilled to the bone every time she looked into those bottomless, questioning eyes.

Kira’s black hair was now sporting a snow-white streak above her right temple, another dramatic change that the tragedy had brought to her little girl.

Her doctor was the first who’d noticed it, thinking that it was residue from the ashes of the burned home she was rescued from. But after the shower the nurse gave Kira, the white lock was still there, even more dramatic against her raven-black hair.

And of course, there were the burns from the defibrillator paddles on her chest where the doctors were shocking her heart. Otherwise, she was absolutely healthy, although a bit on the skinny side.

She was a six-year-old girl who now officially had two birthdays: one in March, when she was born, and another on August 25th, 1992, the day she was rescued and brought back to life after her clinical death—the day the whole country associated now with Hurricane Andrew.

Adelina signed a gazillion discharge papers for Kira’s release, collected her little girl, dressed now in brand new white shorts and a pink t-shirt she had bought in the hospital’s gift shop (all Kira’s clothes and belongings had become ashes and were scattered somewhere under the pile of debris that used to be her home), and left the Pembroke Pine Hospital, holding onto Kira’s little hand like her life depended on it. And on some level, it did; her little girl was now the whole point of Adelina’s life, the whole reason for her existence.

Just before getting into the car, Kira stopped and looked at Adelina, her eerie aquamarine eyes solemn under her long bangs. That horrible white streak above her right temple gave Adelina goosebumps.

“Don’t worry, Oma,” she said in a quiet, serious voice, clear and fragile like a silver bell. “I will take care of you now.”

“Oh, my precious,” Adelina’s eyes misted as she kneeled in front of Kira. “We will be okay; we’ll take care of each other. How about that?” Her heart broke when Kira nodded and lifted her little pinkie.

“Pinkie swear.” That was their special game, the one Adelina herself had taught Kira when she was just a little tyke. But now, seeing Kira’s serious, determined face, it looked and sounded more like a solemn oath.

“Pinkie swear.” Adelina hooked her own little finger around Kira’s. “And now,” she resolutely stood up and gave herself a mental shake before she had a complete meltdown, “off we go, sweetheart.” She helped Kira get into the back of her old Mercedes.

“Where are we going, Oma?” Kira asked, looking at her questioningly.

“Home, baby. We are going home.”

On the way back to St. Augustine, they stopped twice to use the restroom and buy some sandwiches, so it took Adelina almost six hours to get them back home. Kira was subdued and quiet when she was awake, but mostly, she slept in the back seat, tucking Adelina’s jacket under her head for a makeshift pillow. She slept fretfully, waking up with a start, then looking at Adelina and realizing where she was, going back to sleep only to be reawakened by whatever horrors invaded her dreams. Adelina watched her in the rearview mirror, her heart breaking anew every time Kira jerked up from her sleep and looked searchingly around herself.

Poor little one, Adelina thought, whipping tears from her face that refused to stop leaking from her already scratchy, puffy eyes. She was afraid to know what Kira was dreaming about. She herself was trying to put up a brave front for Kira’s sake, but apparently she had failed if the little girl’s first words to her were, “I’ll take care of you.”

Oh, Richard, she choked on a broken breath, I will do my best by your girl, I swear. I’ll take good care of her for as long as I’m alive, I promise you, son.

At that moment, Kira bolted upright.

“Where is Albert?”

****

Happy Valentine’s Day

Hello, my dear friends!

Where did the time go? The holidays are behind us, and it is February already, the month that fills us with hope and wish for the early spring. And we have one very lovely holiday to celebrate in February: Valentine’s Day.

February 14th is a day to celebrate romance and love. But did you know that the origins of this festival of candy, flowers, and cupids are actually dark, and a bit muddled? Well, it is. And it all started with Romans.

From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain (!!)

The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name of our modern day of love. Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day.

Later, Pope Gelasius I muddled things in the 5th century by combining St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan rituals. Around the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin’s Day. Galatin meant “lover of women.” That was likely confused with St. Valentine’s Day at some point, in part because they sound alike.

As the years went on, the holiday grew sweeter. Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized it in their work, and it gained popularity throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. Handmade paper cards became the tokens-du-jour in the Middle Ages.

Eventually, the tradition made its way to the New World. The industrial revolution ushered in factory-made cards in the 19th century. And in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines. February has not been the same since.

Well, after a bit of history, I want to wish all of you a very lovely and Happy Valentine’s Day. May this February 14th bring you love and romance, AND LOTS OF CHOCOLATE!

New Year’s Celebration

When I was a child, growing up in the old country, December 31st was the happiest and most anticipated day of the year. I still remember the smell of our tangerines, which were an absolutely necessary attribute of any New Year’s celebration–more so than champagne.

My mom slaved in the kitchen for days to put the biggest and most scrumptious meal on the table. Then, on the big day, we would put our best china and gather around the table for dinner. For children, it was the biggest thrill, because only on New Year’s Eve were we allowed to stay up all night, eat sweets, and watch TV.

As children, we were the only ones getting presents. It was mostly fruit, candy, books, and an occasional toy, but we were waiting for those presents all year and treasured them immensely. To us, they were precious. They represented something special–New Year’s.

No one wrapped the presents in those days simply because we didn’t have any wrapping paper. I remember my mom would get creative and use cellophane and some ribbons to make the presents more festive. I remember how she would hide these funny-looking presents from us, and how happy she was when she’d manage to transfer them in the middle of the night under the tree, and then looked surprised when we find them in the morning.

But most of all, I remember the feeling of absolute and total happiness. Oh, what a joy it was, that magical New Year’s night! The exhilaration, anticipation, celebration!

I remember everything so vividly like it was yesterday, and my heart breaks a little each and every time…

In my family we keep the tradition and celebrate New Year’s in a big way. Now I am slaving in the kitchen, using my mother’s recipes to put on a celebratory dinner. And every year, there are tangerines, champagne, and presents. Only now they are prettily wrapped and adorned with festive ribbons and bows.

In two days, we will sit around our table, and raise our glasses to toast 2021, wishing for health and happiness, peace and prosperity.

May this coming year be kind to everybody. Stay safe and healthy, love each other, care for your loved-ones, and always keep positive attitude.

Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays!

Hello Everyone,

It’s almost Christmas time!  We’ve made it to the end of 2020, and soon will be welcoming New 2021. Personally, I can’t wait. This year was one of the most challenging and unusual in so many ways!

But no matter how challenging and disappointing this year turned out to be, we still have a lot of things to be grateful for: our families, our children, our loved ones. And we have to move forward and keep light in our hearts no matter what.

Christmas and New Year are very important for me and my family. It’s one of the most special holidays for us. Every year we usually spend some time traveling either to Amelia Island or Georgia Golden Isles. Not this year: this year we’re staying home. COVID has changed so many things for everybody… But there is always next year! I’m looking forward to 2021 because I truly believe that our lives will be turning back to normal very soon.

I’m going to spend my holidays writing. My second book in Upon A Time series is shaping out nicely. I hope to finish it by springtime.

Meanwhile, I have decided to re-edit and re-write some scenes of my two latest books, Rhapsody in Dreams and Before & After.

And that is why I pulled them temporarily from the digital shelves. As soon as all final edits are done, both my ‘babies’ will be on sale again, boasting the brand new covers. Stay tuned for Cover Reveal announcements on my blog and Facebook page 🙂

I am wishing all of you peace, love, and joy this Holiday Season.

And as always, thank you for reading my books, for your kind emails, and for your encouraging words.  Every time you leave a positive review, you give me wings 🙂

With all my love and deepest gratitude,

Stella May

5 Star Review from READERS’ FAVORITE

Hey, everybody! I am super excited!! My new book “Before & After” just got 5 Star review and 5 Star Seal from the READERS’ FAVORITE !!

I’m copying it here (sorry, not very modest of me, but…)

Reviewed By K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite

“Before & After is a work of fiction in the fantasy romance, time travel, and historical sub-genres, and was penned by author Stella May. Written as the opening book to the Upon A Time series, this read is accessible and suitable for readers of all sensitivity levels. We find ourselves in the present day with protagonist Nika Morris, who intends to renovate a historic house on Amelia Island, Florida, which was once the property of one Elijah Coleman. So when Nika finds herself transported back to 1909 and in the company of the former owner himself, she learns a lot more about herself and the original Coleman House than she could ever have bargained for.

Author Stella May has crafted a beautiful and surprisingly realistic romantic story that seamlessly weaves its time travel elements into the historical and contemporary plot threads. I really enjoyed Nika (or indeed Daisy, as she becomes known) for her inquisitive spirit, but also for the vulnerability which she learns and is able to show when she finds herself lost in the past. She and Eli are solidly developed characters to lead the story, but I was also impressed by the realism and level of detail in the surrounding cast, from Eli’s past family to Nika’s present loved ones. The dialogue too was appropriately moderated to give a sense of the past clashing with the present. Overall, Before & After offers a very promising start to a sweeping, lovely story that fans of time travel, romance, and interpersonal family dramas will adore.”

Rhapsody in Dreams- new look

Hello, hello! It has been awhile.

Many things have happened in between my last post and this one, some are good– some are bad. But, despite the craziness that became our new normal, we must move on, and try to do our best to stay positive and kind, and care for one another as much as humanly possible. Life goes on. Just as simple as that.

Thinking back, I realized that on July 15th was the first ‘birthday’ of my book Rhapsody in Dreams. To commemorate this very happy and important for me occasion, I’ve decided to “dress up” my second child in its brand-spanking new book cover. It is totally different from the original one. I confess, I loved the first one, but have heard a few remarks that it’s a bit darker that a romantic fantasy calls for. I also heard from some fellow writers that my font – Old English– is too intricate, and therefore hard to read.

I don’t know. I kind of disagree, but, hey, I always appreciate an honest feedback. And I do get it that there is a lot of different opinions. The main point is– people are reading my book! That’s is the highest prize any author could ask for.

Thank you for reading my book, for your comments and reviews. I appreciate it more than I express in words.

And now, let me introduce you to the new second edition look of my ‘second child’, my musical fantasy-romance Rhapsody in Dreams. I really hope you like it. Please let me know what do you think about it.

Sincerely,

Marina/ Stella

After Jax Book Fest

Last Saturday, which happened to be a leap day of the year, Jacksonville’s Main library was very busy: it was the day of  Jax Book Fest 2020. As soon as we entered the library, we were greeted by the members of the staff who then walked us to our allocated tables and provided all the necessary help to make each and every one of us situated and prepared for the event. Everybody at the library did a great job and I’m very grateful for all the kind words, encouragement and help they provided to all of us.

I counted around 80 local authors ( Indie, like me, and traditionally published ) who participated in this great event. I met some very interesting local authors, bought some of their books. We exchanged the information about our craft and marketing, shared some ‘horror’ stories about writing, swapped some jokes.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day,  productive, busy and full of fun 🙂

Thank you, Jacksonville Library! Until the next time!

Jax Book Fest Feb. 29

Hey, everybody! I’m humbled and proud to be selected among other local authors to participate in the 2020 Jax Book Fest on February 29 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Main Library.

I am very nervous, but I hope that my very first public event will go well. Come check it out!

“My Book Place” Interview

Stella May

Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.


Born in former USSR, I immigrated to the United States in 1991. I graduated with the highest honors from the Music Academy in Baku and earned my Master’s Degree. A resident of Saint Johns, Florida, I am a part owner of a family real estate business along with my husband and son.
Author of the poetry, novellas, and plays (since 1978). Family saga Once & Forever is my first full-length novel (in three separate parts). I first started to work on this manuscript in 1998, so it represents 20 years of hard work to bring this dramatic story to life.

What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?


Once & Forever is a family saga in three books: The Children, The Parents, and The Lovers. I dreamt of a young woman, holding the infant. She was scared and tired. And behind her back was some kind of a banner: Welcome to New York. I knew that the baby wasn’t hers and that she just arrived from Russia. And that’s how it all started.

What authors, or books have influenced you?


A lot of authors and books. I cannot name just a few. Every book I’ve ever read left an impact, one way or the other.

What are you working on now?

A love story that spanned over many centuries. I tentatively call it Once In A Lifetime.

What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?

Social media and email blasts

Do you have any advice for new authors?


Never give up and write every day even if it’s just one sentence.

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What is the best advice you have ever heard?

You are not too old and it’s not too late.

What are you reading now?

Re-reading my favorite Nora Roberts’ In The Garden trilogy.

What’s next for you as a writer?

The next exciting love story.

What is your favorite book of all time?

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy.