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Introducing Stella May

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

Hello, my name is Marina Sardarova. Stella May is my pen name (or my alter ego). In many regards, we are very different, even though she is me. She’s more daring, braver and self-assured; she knows exactly what she wants. She writes because she loves it and because she has stories inside of her. She never listens when people tell her she cannot do something simply because it’s impossible. She believes in herself. In short- she’s a much better version of myself.

I was born in the sixties of the last century in a country that doesn’t exist anymore: the former Soviet Union. However, I am not Russian–I’m Armenian, and proud of my heritage.

Literature and music are my two great passions. My maternal grandparents were both professional singers; my father was a jazz guitarist. My brother and I both finished musical colleges. I graduated from a Conservatory (or Music Academy) with a diploma in musicology.

When I was a child, I dreamed of becoming a concert pianist. Or an artist. Or even a famous poet. I was practicing piano for hours, sketching and writing some plays and poetry. And, of course, reading books. I don’t remember myself without a book. Ever. My aunt had a huge home library that was my absolutely most favorite place on earth. I had a very happy childhood indeed!

When I moved to the United States, to a country where everything was so different (including language), I quickly realized that I needed to learn English more than I needed to eat. Because while I could easily survive on water and bread, I absolutely refused to live without books. And so, I taught myself English (with the help of children’s books and cartoons), and my dear neighbor, Mrs. Foster (God rest her beautiful soul). She truly believed I understood whatever she was saying, so she’d engage me in a long conversations whenever she could, and demanded (in her own patient and kind way) a response. She left me no choice.

As soon as I was able to read books (with a dictionary at first), my life became whole again. And the absolutely crazy idea of writing started to slowly emerge from somewhere within.

I began to write in secret, penning a few sentences here and there, using my son’s discarded, half-used notebooks. When my husband brought home our very first computer, a chunky heavyweight Compaq, I discovered Microsoft Works (how many people still remember that program?). Of course, he purchased it for business purposes, with the silly notion that I would learn spreadsheets and accounting . . . poor misguided soul.

Instead, I spent every free moment in front of my beloved computer learning to type, writing my heart away.

I guess that’s when Stella May first started to emerge. She didn’t have her own name yet, or her own identity. She was still hiding behind me, unsure and hesitant.

Then, one night, I saw in my dream a very young woman, almost a girl, who was standing in a middle of a crowd, clutching a baby. She was skinny, badly dressed and scared. She had green eyes and curly red hair, and her name was Natasha. She was at the JFK airport. Somehow, I knew that. I also knew that the baby wasn’t hers. Above her head I saw a banner: Welcome to the United States of America. And that’s how the idea of Rostoff saga (Once & Forever ) came to me. And that’s when Stella May was born.

It took me twenty years, between raising my son and running a business with my husband, to bring this story to life. In 2018, after many unsuccessful attempts to submit my book to a traditional publisher, I split my first book into three parts (my son’s brilliant idea), and self-published it as the separate books: The Children, The Parents, and The Lovers. I sold more than 1100 copies.

After I said good-bye to the Rostoffs, I almost had postpartum depression (ha-ha) until I started to play with the idea of past-lives remembrances and dreams. I decided to read more on the subject . . . and the idea of Rhapsody in Dreams came to life. This time around, I deliberately chose to self-publish my book instead from the get-go. In July 2019, I introduced my second child to the world.

While still in a middle of Kira and Al’s story, my husband and I visited Amelia Island, FL. I immediately knew that I will set my next book there. And since the whole atmosphere of the place seems to be frozen in Victorian time, what choice do I have but to start on a time-travel fantasy romance? None.

Before & After (that’s a tentative name of my work in progress) will hopefully be released next summer.

I’m enjoying the process of writing tremendously, every single moment of it, be to a smooth sailing or a rough stumbling. I love when my heroes talk to me (in my head), when they do and act as I expect. I love it even more when they start to argue and misbehave, digging their heels and dragging me away from the story line or a well-panned dialog. I’m having fun.

Oh, and why Stella May? Well, it’s really simple: Stella is the name of my favorite aunt whom I adore; May is my birth month. And the initials – S M – are my own, only in reverse.

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.”

Before & After. Excerpt

Prologue

Eight Years Ago

“Nika, wake up.”

When she refused to budge, Alex administered an elbow jab to the ribs, a sure way to get his sleeping cousin out of her slumber.

“What? Why?”

Nika sprang up, like a cork out of a champagne bottle, banging her forehead against the dashboard in the process. She sat, bolt upright, looking owlishly around the car.

“Ouch!” she yelped, massaging her abused head.

Alex gave her one of his lopsided, pirate’s grins.

“Poor baby. Have a boo-boo?”

“Shut up, cuz. Where are we? And why did we stop?”

“Well, my girl, according to the sign, we are in the fine old town of Fernandina Beach, Florida. As to why we stopped,” he said, grimacing, “the car has finally given up. She couldn’t take it any longer, poor thing. So, here we are.”

“I told you we should take my car instead of this heap. But did you listen?”

“What, take a red, brand-spanking new Ferrari to make our secret escape from Manhattan? Yeah, that would’ve been a very covert operation indeed!”

Nika shrugged off his remark, especially since he was absolutely right. In her car they would’ve been located and stopped in a matter of minutes.

“And why are we in Florida? I thought we were stopping in Georgia for a few days.”

“Well, we reached the Peach State last night, while you were in a deep slumber, but I didn’t feel like stopping. Why? Did you want to see something in particular in there?”

“No, but we are supposed to talk and agree on things, both of us! What if I didn’t want to go to Fernandina Beach?”

“Well, if you don’t, we’ll go somewhere else. As soon as we figure out how.”

Alex patted the dashboard of the now dead car with his hand, and drew a deep breath. Then he grinned at Nika mischievously.

“You wanted an adventure, my girl. I’d say, your wish came true!”

“Yeah, I’d say,” Nika grumbled, pretending to be mad. Secretly she was as pleased as her cousin. But since taking the second-hand heap camouflaging for a car was Alex’s idea, and especially since he passed through Georgia without consulting her first, she wasn’t ready to let him off the hook so easily. She didn’t want to stop anywhere in particular, or see anything in that state, truth be told. It was just a matter of principle. If they were true partners, they should make all the decisions together. Period. On that Nika was firm. When she first presented Alex with her idea of the Grand Adventure (or, more accurately, running away from their fathers), she made sure they both agreed on the most important basic terms. And they were: to share everything, to tell the truth no matter what, and—the cardinal rule— to make all the decisions mutually. Alex took an oath, and violated it in a matter of days by passing Georgia without waking her up, simply because he didn’t feel like stopping. The moron! Nika frowned and looked at her cousin whom she had simply adored since childhood. The idiot was grinning ear-to-ear, happy as can be, sitting in a dead car smack in the middle of a street, in some tiny picturesque town at five in the morning! No wonder she was crazy about him.

“What do you say, my girl?”

“I say, our Grand Adventure came to a screeching halt. What do you propose we should do, partner?” She made an accent on the last word.

“Let’s see, partner.” He fluffed her hair in a familiar manner that had driven her nuts since they both were in diapers. Her crazy mane of curls probably resembled a crow’s nest by now. “How much money do we have?”

Nika, who was their financial manager, replied without a pause, “Ninety-seven dollars, thirty-three cents in cash.”

“Credit cards?”

“Two thousand, give or take. If the fathers didn’t block them yet.”

Their fathers, the identical twins Joseph and Jacob, the heads of the international Manhattan investment bank and financial services Morris & Morris, were a formidable force to be reckoned with. By running away from home Alex and Nika had violated the Two Golden Rules of the Morris’:  #1—The Twins (as they were called by friend and foe alike) are always right; #2—if you think otherwise, look for rule #1 or get out of the way. And that is precisely what they did, since both of them disagreed with the rule #1, especially where their life-choices were concerned.

“Let’s hope for the best,” Alex replied, always the optimist. “Or we could always call one or the other?” He looked at Nika questioningly.

“What, call Dad? For money?! Are you out of your mind?”
“Well, you could call my Dad, and I could call yours.”

“And tell them what? That they were right, and we cannot survive without them constantly supervising our every step, or dictating our every move? And prove them right? Out of the question. I’d rather starve.” Nika banged her small fist against the dashboard with a surprising force, wincing afterwards. “Never,”

she repeated with vehemence.

“Yeah, bad idea,” Alex agreed. “Well, there is always Verochka. She supported our cause and even bought this heap, as you call it, for us.”

“Grandmother might support our decision to stand on our own and rule our own lives, but even she wouldn’t go so far as to lend us money secretly from The Twins. She would inevitably let them know about our location, and then all the cops would be after us, trying to capture the fugitive children.”

“They won’t go that far! Would they?” Alex turned his troubled eyes to her face. Looking into those eyes was like looking in the mirror. Only two out of the six children The Twins produced,  had inherited the unusual violet-blue shade of eyes of their Grandmother Vera, or Verochka as she was called by everybody.

“You never know, and I don’t want to find out for sure,” Nika replied.

She dragged both hands through the mess of tangled curls the color of rich caramel. Then she shook her mane in a defiant manner and smiled recklessly at her cousin and partner in crime.

“Hell, our luck has held up so far, cuz. I say, let’s stick to the plan and make it a true Grand Adventure! Let’s stop here, in this town, and start building our lives from scratch!”

“Here? In Fernandina Beach?”

Alex looked at her incredulously, then peered out of the window at the tiny sleepy town, quaint and picturesque, and somehow unreal, shimmering mysteriously in the first rays of the rising sun.

“Why not? The weather is always warm in the Sunshine State, or so they claim. A big plus. The ocean is right here, so the seafood and shrimp galore, a huge plus.” Nika, warming up on the subject, leaned forward and started to gesticulate with both arms, a sure sign that she was excited. “The history is all around us, I can feel it! The houses, the streets, the atmosphere—it’s where we are supposed to be, cuz. I can see us here in three, five, even eight years from now! We’ll start a business. Yes! A company we always wanted to start, just the two of us!”

“And what would that company of ours do?” Alex asked with a chuckle. His own misgivings on the subject evaporated shortly after his younger cousin (she was younger by a mere month, but still) started to speak. It was impossible to stay in a bleak mood longer than a few minutes in her presence. Her exuberance and enthusiasm were simply overwhelming, her thirst for adventure and her stubborn belief that life is beautiful were highly contagious. At least, it was always to him. Even as a boy, Alex always shadowing his miniature tornado of a cousin, getting constantly in one trouble after another, but unable to resist the temptation. The most miserable period of his life Alex considered to be the four years of Harvard, when he lived away from Nika—who unlike him, didn’t have an almost genius IQ, and stayed home to attend a local university. Now, they were both the graduates with the freshly minted diplomas they didn’t want or need, and two sets of irate parents they managed to piss off by running away on the Grand Adventure (Nika’s brilliant idea). Their secret escape took place right after the graduation party The Twins had thrown for them two weeks ago, and was designed as a demonstration and proof that both Nika and Alex were responsible adults, able to make their own way. It was a desperate and daring move and yes, a rebellion against the dictatorial regime of the Morris’ households, where Jacob and Joseph reigned supreme.

For anyone who didn’t know their fathers or their methods, this escape might’ve seemed too extreme a measure. But to the members of the family who lived by the Two Golden Rules, the staff of the Morris & Morris bank, and all the children (there were six of them altogether, with Nika and Alex in the middle of each triumvirate set), such wasn’t the case. Even The Twins’ mother, Alex and Nika’s favorite grandmother, Verochka, was in a state of a constant awe (not to mention bafflement) of her own offsprings. It didn’t stop her, however, from aiding and abetting Nika and Alex: Verochka had a very strong independent streak and a firm and unshakable believe in freedom, which included the right of every person to shape his or her own destiny, and the right to be happy. And, of course, because she absolutely adored the pair of them.

“We can do anything we want to! We can try many different things before we find our own milieu. Well, what do you say, partner?”

“Heck, why not? Let’s do it, partner!”

Nika laughed and, launching at him, threw her arms around his neck.

“I’m so happy! I’m happy you decided to drive past Georgia, I’m happy our car has died on us, I’m happy to be here! I just know it’s where we are supposed to be! We’ll make it happen, cuz. Just wait and see. We’ll make it fine on our own. And we will show to the whole wide world what Morris & Morris, Jrs. are capable of.”

“Please,” Alex grimaced, “not Morris & Morris! Whatever we’ll call our future company, I want your solemn promise we absolutely will not mix The Twins’ name into it!”

“You got it, darling.” Nika placed her palm onto his face and gave it a soft caressing pat. She knew the whole ordeal was much harder on him than he let on— her almost-genius, soft-hearted and serious cousin, who would never hurt a fly, Let alone defy their overbearing duo of fathers. He would probably enter Harvard Law School and finish it with flying colors, then join the family firm and be miserable for the rest of his life, if it wasn’t for her and her ingenious escape plan. Well, what was a younger cousin for, Nika thought, delighted for them both and the world in general. 

“Let’s name it Before and After, then. Before we came here—and after we settle here, get it? And we make sure that whatever it is we’ll do, it will make a lasting impact on this town and its people! How about that, darling?”

Before and After. Goddammit, I like it!” Alex grinned, and reminded her once again of a little boy, happy, kind and joyous, who followed her every step and got her out of mischief more than she cared to remember. Or, when he couldn’t talk her out of it, joined her on said mischief. Like right now. Was it any wonder, Nika thought, she loved him more than her own brothers (more than anyone in the world, really), and couldn’t imagine her life without him?

“Fate, you fickle bitch, here we are, and here we stay, for better or worse!”

Alex shouted through the open window of the derelict broken-down car, delirious and carefree.

“Here we are,” Nika joined in, poking her head out through the passenger window, her own voice clear and sonorous like a silver bell, “and here we stay! And let’s see how that fickle bitch Fate will dare to defy us now!”

“Before & After” Release Day today!

And so, it’s finally here!

My brand new novel “Before & After” has been released today! I am very excited and super nervous. This book is the first one in a series “Upon A Time”, a time travel adventures set in my absolutely all-time favorite place in Florida– Amelia Island. And so, without further ado, I’m presenting you my time-travel romance/adventure “Before & After.” It is available at all your favorite digital stores: https://books2read.com/u/3nWry8

And here is the link to Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Stella_May_Before_After?id=HNH9DwAAQBAJ&hl=en_US&fbclid=IwAR3UhGoh0m_D5MVmxQHzDihAGnUQBCRZNWRRtUloAtUg4Y5vFkSbHj2g-qs

Let me know what do you think 🙂

Before & After

And so, it’s done. My new book, a time-travel love story Before & After–the first book in my new series Upon A Time–is finished and sent to my editor. I am happy and thrilled, yet scared as any mother of a ‘newborn’.

It was a long and somewhat arduous journey. I planned to finish this book long before now, in the springtime, but fate decided differently. Many things happened: some sad, some happy, some in-between. My writing was my escape and my salvation. When everything seemed to be turning and shifting beneath my feet, the simple act of putting words on paper (or computer screen, that is) was calming and grounding.

The seed for a time-travel story was planted into my head a little over two years ago, when my husband and I first visited Amelia Island and took a boat tour to Georgia’s Golden Isles. I remember looking at Cumberland Island–wild, untamed, and beautiful– and a crazy thought popped into my mind: What if a modern woman, petite and slender, with a short hair-cut, would find herself on this Island, say, a hundred years ago, dressed in jeans and t-shirt? They would probably take her for a boy…

The rest was history.

Needless to say, I fell in love with Fernandina Beach, its picturesque historic district, its unapologetic old-fashioned way, its unhurried rhythm of life. Even time seems to move slower there.

After that first visit, I’ve traveled to Amelia Island a few more times (thank goodness the trip is a short one ) and every time I felt like I was transported back in time to another era. I hope I managed to describe that in my book. I hope my love to the city of Fernandina Beach and the ocean shines through.

I am not sure how many books there will be in the Upon A Time series–time will tell (pun intended)–but I am in a process of the second book, which will be a continuation of Nika and Eli’s story. The tentative name for it is Now & Again. Hopefully, I will finish it by next spring.

For now, there is a teaser–a half-revealed cover of Before & After–which I’m planning to fully uncover as soon as my book is published (hopefully, in the first weeks of September).

Thank you and stay tuned!

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!

“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.

.

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.

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, depriving her brain of oxygen. Two paramedics, grim, dirty, and exhausted, immediately started CPR and delivered her to the Emergency Center in the 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 with 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 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

1

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, she couldn’t accept it yet. Her brain knew it, but refused to deal. The five-hour drive to the hospital went by in a blur. She didn’t even remember how she got here. 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 had started to ring, so Adelina took the call that changed her life forever. Before and after.

Her whole family, she’d been told, has 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 a bad shape, she was told. Multiple bruises and lacerations, moderate to severe concussion, one dislocated shoulder; she has 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 you 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’s 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 by itself. Her brain shows no after-effects of oxygen deprivation; her heart is beating strong. 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, she has 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 by car north of Miami, in 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 their 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 a residue of the ashes from 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 a skinny side, 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 the hurricane Andrew.

Adelina signed a gazillion discharge pages 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 the long bangs. That horrible white streak above her right temple gave Adelina the goose bumps.

“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?”

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