Ninety Days: Chapter 4 – HOME (and a note)

Hello! Is this thing still on? It has been a long time, my friends; four years and two months to be exact. And what years they have been! I know that many, if not most, of you have faced tough, dark times this last year and maybe even before. I hope you and all your loved ones are safe, healthy, and finding joy and hope in whatever form it comes. As for me, we would need chapters, maybe a whole book, to cover the last few years. I will not do that. They have tested me in ways I did not know I could be tested, from the state of our world to my own health and that of my beloved husband. Every week or month has felt, and still feels, like a new war, some days for myself, other days for those I love. A couple wars on the health front are still raging. To be honest, I don’t know how or if we will come out of it. But I know that, slowly, my creative world went dark. The more I fought to be there for those who needed me in real life, the less my art, my characters, my joy, and eventually my self spoke back. And then for a long time, there was only fighting and silence, fighting and silence. Then today, for the first time in very long while, Elisa spoke right as I was in the middle of an ugly sob, the kind that I need two days in bed to recover from. “Hi,” she said. I almost didn’t hear it over my crying. But there it was again, the way she used to sound in my head back when I was writing. I lay there on the floor, by the window where I was supposed to watch the first snow Portland has had in a while, but was choking for air instead. And then I crawled over to this laptop, opened a file I had last accessed on February 2017–a whole different woman back then, full of joy, dreams, life. And it was like looking at a stranger. I sobbed some more–for a whole different Ani that feels now gone, maybe forever. For a whole different life. But through the tears, eventually I started reading the words that old me had written. It felt like I was reading someone else’s book. And I realized why Elisa’s voice came at such a dark, hopeless moment: because she too was left locked in her own hell. And I thought, maybe I can at least get her out. Maybe she can get me out too. So I started typing the last sentences of this chapter that old me had left unfinished. It took all day, instead of the ten minutes it would have taken the girl I used to be. And then I came here on this blog: forgotten passwords, forgotten how-to, forgotten file names, everything. That took hours too. I read through some of the comments you had left–again feeling like they were to someone who no longer exists. But then a sense of gratitude broke through. And I thought I’d give you this chapter. Maybe you still remember the story and will like it. Maybe you have moved on. That’s totally understandable. But if you read it, it might help to refresh the first three chapters in the last post I blogged. I hope this new chapter brings you a smile or some happiness. I don’t know if I can keep it up. If I can, I will be back and post more. If not, sending you lots of love and gratitude for every time you have read, commented, waited, messaged, liked, shared, tweeted, posted, wondered, hoped, laughed, cried, and lived with me and my characters. – xoxo, Ani

4

HOME

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but that has never been true for me. In fact, as I trudge back down the hill toward Burford, I feel more fragile than ever, as though the flap of a butterfly’s wings will shatter me.  But my senses are sharper, ranging out in hyper-vigilance for any potential trigger of pain.  So perhaps what doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger. Perhaps it only makes you wiser. I cannot endure more hurt, but I know my rules of survival.

Rule Number One: I will not think about him.

Rule Number Two: I will not think about the past.

Rule Number Three: I will not dream about future.  

I will think only about the present—here and now. Practicalities really. Things like, will the Internet be reactivated at the cottage by the time I get there if I called the utility company from Heathrow eight hours ago? Will the food I bought at the airport last me a few days before I have to face town?  What will I say to Mr. Plemmons who has taken care of the cottage these last four years when it should have been me? Should I email Oxford to look for a job in Dad’s chemistry department? If I do email, how will I explain my sudden reappearance? What will I say to my father’s colleagues? 

I spend the rest of the trek down the hill, rehearsing my lines in my head.

My name is Elisa Snow. My father was Peter Snow; he was the Chair of the Science Department—you may remember him. I am a chemist, too. I just graduated from Reed College in the United States. Yes, a very long way away.  I have invented only one nutrient component, which I do not own any more, but I am a fast learner. I will dedicate every hour of my day, and every day of my life, to your department’s research. To continue my father’s work. Please give me a job.  I have nothing else to do.  No one else left to save. 

It’s impossible to ignore the swipe of déjà vu, rehearsing a very similar speech for ICE thirty days ago.  But that breaches Rule Number Two so I force all my senses on the path ahead. At the end of the trail, a welcome sign boasts, “Cotswolds. Area of outstanding natural beauty.”  Even in my state, I cannot deny its truth.  Soft hills roll endlessly around me in every shade of green imaginable. Mint, moss, shamrock, jade. Their crowns are gilded orange from the setting sun, and River Windrush glistens between them like a silk ribbon. Beyond the welcome sign, the ancient road stretches for about a mile, framed by Burford’s medieval cottages, tucked closely together like fairytale books on a shelf.  The native nightingales are just starting their mating night song. And a sultry breeze swirls in the air, laced with the perfume of freshly mowed grass and sweet clover.  I inhale deeply, as though emerging from underwater.  And what felt forced a few seconds ago now feels like hunger.  I cannot widen my eyes enough to trace every thatched rooftop and swaying tree.  With a tight grip in my throat, I realize a very simple truth: I have missed this place.  Despite all my efforts to banish it into oblivion, it has lived in my blood. 

Abruptly, I feel late, very late—impatient to see my cottage while there is still some daylight. Worried that it has changed. That it is no longer the perfect nest of my childhood. No longer mine.  I throw my scarf over my head and scurry the opposite direction of the sign, taking a shortcut across the clover field under the protective tunnel of the primordial yews and oaks. The blisters on my feet rub against the canvass of my sneakers, slowing me down. I slip them off, and traipse along the grass.  The cool, dewy blades soak my socks and soothe the soles of my feet, like the moist air does with my chapped lips and parched throat.  Now and then, a leaf or branch brushes softly against my hair or cheek, and I can’t help but imagine that England is welcoming me back. Like the prodigal, even though I don’t deserve it. The sun is dipping lower in the horizon now, and I walk faster, wincing at the ache of my muscles. But I don’t want the first sight of my cottage to be in the dark. 

 Finally the town is behind and the hill ends, sloping into a tiny valley like a child’s cupped hand. I pause at the edge, my throat tightening at the sight. This is the valley of my childhood. From the moment I could walk, I was lurking in this grass so constantly that Dad named it Elysium.

My eyes skate over the meadow urgently, fixing on the grove of weeping willows at the far end, right on the riverbank. At the sight of their swaying garlands, I start running toward them, rolling like a pebble down Elysium’s bowl, not caring about the blisters in my feet or the spasms in my legs.

The willows have grown. Their branches drip down like a thick curtain, the tips brushing over the grass. I can’t see anything through the leaves, except a glimmer of river here and there, but the air is heavy, redolent with the smell of roses, and I know my cottage is right behind the leafy drapes.  My heart—so silent until now—starts pounding.  I pause and listen, cupping my ear, like I used to do when I was a child.

            Shhhhhhhh, the river babbles behind the branches. Shhhhhhhhh, whisper the willows. I try to find words in their murmur. Shhhhh…sssss….hhhh… I repeat the sound until it rings in English. She’s here. She’s here. I sweep aside the branches and step between the thick trunks into the most magical place I have ever seen. 

My Rose Cottage.

It stands there, gleaming silver under the twilight sky, swaddled between the river and the two ancient beech trees with my swing still hanging on the lowest branch. A third beech tree that Dad planted the day I was born has grown close to the huge trunks—healthy and strong, so very unlike me. But despite their vast heights, the trees seem dwarfed, overshadowed by the thousands of roses blooming underneath. Miniature pink blossoms have taken over the whitewashed stone walls, lacing around the black shuttered windows, covering every centimeter of the peaked rooftop with their vines. Bigger, fuller blooms shoot up from grassy beds, so many that the tiny handkerchief yard is blanketed with a petal-woven quilt, hiding the grass and path underneath.  Over the arched front door, a garland of magenta blooms has climbed like a crown. And the small reading bench by the river is braided with garden roses the color of ballet slippers. The rose fragrance infuses everything—there is no trace of river, grass, willow, or dirt in the air. Only roses as though the whole earth is soaked in their oil. It’s surreal—as though Mum never passed, as though her soul gives magic to the blooms. 

I don’t realize I’m crying until the cottage blurs in my vision. I wipe off the tears, resisting even a blink. Isn’t a blink too much to miss for something you suddenly realize you’ve missed for a long time?

I pad in a trance down the cobblestoned path covered in petals—it is soft, comforting under my socked feet, as though it knew I’d come back with blisters.  Trembling, I reach the ivory blooms below my bedroom window. TheElisa hybrid that Mum cultivated for me. I caress one of them, teardrops falling over the petals like dew.  Brutally, the memory of showing him a similar rose in the Portland Rose Garden on our first night together intrudes on this perfect moment.  “No!” I snarl, shaking my head forcefully to dispel the image.  But another memory—him waking me up with that same rose the next morning—breaks through with its force.  “No!” I  shout louder, pressing the tip of my thumb intentionally against a real Elisa thorn. It works.  A small bead of blood drips on an ivory petal, and I become absorbed with wiping it away, not wanting to taint any part of my cottage with him.  Then with shaking hands, I dig up my old key, slide it in the lock, and hold my breath as I turn the rose-shaped brass knob and open the door.   I’m home.

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55 thoughts on “Ninety Days: Chapter 4 – HOME (and a note)

  1. annette101660 says:

    Ani Keating you have come home! I cannot believe your back. I loved this story so much and have wished you would continue it. I literally have tears in my eyes as I read this again. I do believe I need to reread from the start. I’m so happy! Welcome Back!

    • Ani Keating says:

      Thank you for welcoming me back, like the prodigal as Elisa would say. And thanks for waiting so patiently. Agree about reading it all together. I just put all the first four chapters together under the Ninety Days page. Maybe there is an easier way to do this–I’ll think about it. xo

  2. Shirley Wilkinson says:

    Welcome back Ani. You brighten this page like a drift of early crocus in the powdery snow.
    Stay well. I hope to hear more from you soon.

  3. elizabeth Bradford says:

    Ani,

    OMGoodness I’m so sorry that you’re suffering..I thought about you and book two a couple weeks ago..I don’t know what you and your husband are struggling with but I’ll definitely add you to my prayers and I’ll ask Jesus to intervene for you…maybe you don’t know HIM but I do and I’ll ask Him to lead you and guide you and give u peace People who are facing difficult situations today can take comfort in Jeremiah 29:11 knowing that it is not a promise to immediately rescue us from hardship or suffering, but rather a promise that God has a plan for our lives and regardless of our current situation, He can work through it to prosper us and give us a hope … Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord plans to give u peace and not evil..to prosper you to give you a future and hope

    Praying for u Elizabeth

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  4. Mrsjsd says:

    Thank you and welcome back Ani! I’ve been idled myself and it’s so good to read this again! Hope you’re doing okay. I hope to see more chapters coming. ❤️

    • Stacey Hurley says:

      Welcome Back!!! I’ve thought of your story often! I think I’ll go back and read it again!! Glad you’re continuing it!

      • Ani Keating says:

        Thank you so much, Stacey. Re-reading it is probably a good idea after so long. Especially after some of the revelations that are coming. xo

    • Ani Keating says:

      Thank you so much for waiting so patiently and for being here with a kind word after the looooooong absence. More chapters coming as I write, so you don’t have to wait much longer. xo

  5. iheartroarke says:

    I was so excited to see the email in my inbox that you had added a new post! I almost forgot that I had subscribed so I was glad that I had otherwise I might have missed it. I actually had to reset my password because I couldn’t remember it either. Your story has lived inside me ever since I first read it. I have waited, hoped and wished to read more of the story and I wasn’t disappointed. Your words always touch me in the most profound way. It is emotive and I feel the emotions deep in my heart. I am so sorry to hear that you and your loved ones have struggled and suffered and continue to do so. I hope that your pain is eased somehow and that this year is better and holds wonderful and joyous things for you. I hope that you are able to continue this story because you have a beautiful style of writing that touches the heart and soul. I wish you a better and brighter new year and all the joy, happiness and health in the world. xoxo.

  6. Elizabeth t dairies says:

    Wow I was thinking of you and your story a few days ago. I hope that what ever funk you were I. Has been lifted. this story is amazing and you are an amazing writer . I hope to see more soon.

    • Ani Keating says:

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting–much needed and appreciated. Hope you’ve been enjoying the new chapters.

  7. Pam says:

    OMG you’re back. I’m so so happy. I’m pleased you’ve found in you to write again. I absolutely loved 30 days… I have read and reread that book so many times. Good luck for everything that comes for you. Can’t wait to read more from you. Best wishes from Uk. X

    • Ani Keating says:

      Pam!!! Thank you so much darling. It’s so good to see you here still, despite my shamefully long absence. And for hearing Thirty Nights has been keeping you company. More chapters coming. xo

  8. Wattle Ido says:

    Oh Ani, so glad to see you’re back.
    Sad that you’ve been going through things. The last few years, 7 years for me, have been hell but I think not like yours. I hope those you love have survived and are surviving the scourge in all the different parts of the world you are attached and I hope you make it through whatever you’re going through. Lots of love and support from here. I have always loved your writing and so happy to see this chapter come through today. May 2021 improve from here.

  9. twinkie55 says:

    Dear Ani, what a wonderful surprised. I have missed your writing and the story SO SO MUCH. I scored the web looking out for you and your writing and wondering what happened. I am so sorry you have been going through so much that stole away your talent and gift. Whatever it is I will keep you in my prayers, God always wins. With His love this too shall pass. Thank you for writing again. Stay strong and stay blessed.

    • Ani Keating says:

      Thank you so much darling! I’m so sorry you’ve had to wait so long and miss this story. I wish it hadn’t had to be this way, but I’m grateful you waited and returned to it. i hope you enjoy it. Thank you for reading, for enjoying it, and for always dropping me a line. xoxo

  10. Karen says:

    Ani I am so thrilled to hear from you, I genuinely worried about you over the years of silence. There are very few times in life when a person and\or a story resonate deep inside and stay with you and for me that was you and 90 days. I have often thought of Elisa and Aidan, of the their love, how Aidan didn’t feel worthy, of the tap tap tapping that Elisa has going on in her head just waiting to realise the truth. The last 4 years have been so cruel to so many people with loss of loved ones and loss of health, myself included. For you dear Ani I wish you peace and happiness. I hope that with Elisa breaking through to you that a little door with shining light has come into your life and you will find strength to keep walking and find peace. You have an amazing talent in writing and I know that it is still there inside of you. So take time for you, build on your happiness and peace and know that many of us will always be here for you, even if you can’t get the words of the story down on paper, we are still wishing you so much love, peace and happiness to you and to all your family. With heartfelt love and thanks, Karen Cronin xx

    • Ani Keating says:

      Karen, darling–thank you so much for this very kind note and for sending me thoughts and prayers. I can’t tell you how much your message warmed me, seeing how much you remember every detail, even the tap-tap-tapping. Your words were a bit like a harry potter potion, giving me a smile and some energy at a tough time. So I turned it into more chapters–I hope you like them. I’ve thought of you too and hoping you and your family are well. Drop me a line to let me know how things have been when you can. Lots of love to you. xoxo

  11. Stephanie Brodeur says:

    Bonne St-Valentin ma chère ❤️ Merci pour ce beau chapitre 🥰

    Stephanie Brodeur Envoyé de mon iPhone

    >

  12. Trish Guthrie says:

    Such a ray of sunshine to wake up to, considering it’s 0° here. It’s like an old friend came to visit, falling right into that comfortable rapor like no time has passed. Wishing you and your family health and happiness during this crazy time. Happy Valentines Day 💝

    • Ani Keating says:

      Trish!! The ray of sunshine is you. So happy to see you here my friend. I couldn’t have put it better my self: exactly like old friends. I hope you’ve been well, and you enjoy the story that’s been coming. xo

  13. Wendy1fitgily says:

    I have not read the chapter yet (I need time to prepare myself for that), but I just want to say – Hello, my friend. I’ve missed you. xoxo

    • Ani Keating says:

      Wendy!!! Hello darling friend–made me smile to see your name here, and all those kind, nice chats. I hope you’ve been well? And your loved ones. I’ve missed you too. I hope you liked the chapters. xo

    • Ani Keating says:

      Thank you so much for waiting so patiently. That’s such a gift. Hope you enjoy the chapters and the rest of the story.

    • Ani Keating says:

      Elke, yes! It flies indeed. How are you, how has this hard year treated you? My brother lives in Germany and said it’s been tough all around. Sending you love and strength back.

  14. Sharon Starr says:

    Sweet girl. Such a lovely surprise when I logged in last night. So relieved you popped back for however long. It was obvious that you had other things going on…but you’ve been kept wrapped in prayer the entire time.
    Thank you for the BEST valentine’s gift!
    Hope we hear from you again soon! Your storytelling is a blessing.

    • Ani Keating says:

      Hello my darling! How wonderful to see you here. Thank you for waiting, for the prayers, and for dropping a line. It means a lot. I hope you have been well. Let me know if you like it. Thinking of you. xo

  15. Melissa . says:

    Thankx dor thia Ani ?? A Sweet Valentine Gift from you ?? Stay Safe and Healthy Always ??

    Regards, Melissa ________________________________

  16. Melissa . says:

    Thankx for this Ani ?? A Sweet Valentine Gift from you ?? Stay Safe and Healthy Always ??

    Regards, Melissa ________________________________

  17. Tara Davidson says:

    What a glorious surprise! Wonderful to hear “your voice”. So sad to hear of your challenges. Prayers for you and your family. What a perfect time to read an inspiring story! A new presidential administration and hopefully, new policy on immigration will follow! I have thought of you often when I have heard of the awful challenges in Portland. I hope you are all safe, and peace will return in the tumultuous time. I look forward to reading anything you share! Wishing you peace and joy! And I am planting new roses… I was inspired recently following a few on Instagram and will share pics when they bloom this summer! Glad you are back!

    • Ani Keating says:

      Tara, my dear! So wonderful to see your name here and hear you back. Thank you for being here, for your prayers, and for always making time to drop me a note. Believe me, it means a lot. Yes, times have been so dark, haven’t they? I find myself afraid of waking up in the morning, and maybe that’s why the story started again. I really hope you enjoy it. And I’m so happy to hear about the roses? What types are you planting? Pics please. Can’t wait to see how they turn out. xo

  18. Frances Villar says:

    Glad to have you back. I was losing hope. I thought maybe you decided to publish elsewhere under another title.  But now you are here. So happy. I feel like this story is like an old friend who went through hard times and will somehow pick up the pieces of her life. Just like our heroine. And you. God bless.

    • Ani Keating says:

      Thank you so much for waiting so long and holding on to a bit of hope. I hope you enjoy the next few chapters–writing as fast as I can. xo

  19. Mary Giardina says:

    Ani, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw your name in my inbox!
    So wonderful to have you back. Be strong, dear friend. Thank-you for sharing your incredible talent with us. So very grateful 🌹❤️

    • Ani Keating says:

      Thank you darling! I’m sorry you had to wait so long. I’ve been posting 4 this last week and will post more as I write, write, write. Hope you enjoy them. xo

  20. nanettevirden2911 says:

    It’s great to see you finally continue with this wonderful story. I have always been a huge fan. Elisa and Aiden, one of my favorite love stories. Question: Where can I read the other three chapters?

    • Ani Keating says:

      Hi Nan, it’s so good to “see” you here. Thank you and I’m sorry you had to wait so long. The first three chapters are under the “Books” then under Ninety Days. 🙂

  21. Linda Catanzaro Boberg says:

    I was so thrilled to see your Facebook post this morning. I love your writing and your Ninety Days (and fanfiction stories) were wonderful. Admission: I had deleted the link to this website when I thought you’d given up, so thank you for letting me know this chapter was up. Admission: I have gone through hell and back with my own health,(would be glad to share if it would help you) and started writing and independently publishing my own novels Finding Peace, Making Magic by Adelyn Zara to help me get through the rough times. I chose to independently publish after just guessing at what you went through with your own book and, frankly, because I felt like some of the best of that story was edited out (the limericks, getting ready for Christmas and others). I hope getting back to your writing is helpful for you. I can’t wait to read what happens to Elisa and Adian (and others!). Take care, stay well, and judging by the responses here, know that many people love you and your work!

    • Ani Keating says:

      Hi Linda, first, I am so very sorry to hear about your own health issues. There is absolutely nothing worse. It turns your entire life upside down, and the lives of those you love. I hope you have made a full recovery or, if not full, at least enough where you can live fully and without a lot of pain. Lots go hugs to you. But i’m so glad that out of those struggles you started exploring writing and publishing. i’d love to check out your books–are they on Amazon? You made an excellent decision to do it independently. Publishing is such a dream but we only hear of the big stories that make it. For everyone of those, there are thousands of authors that get caught up in the publisher redtape or, worse as in my case, publisher closing and tying up copyrights. And of course, lack of creative control. That’s one of the things I’m enjoying the most about being able to write again: do what I want and what i know these characters would do without word count limits and formulas, etc. That’s what my readers liked the most. And hopefully it will help me too. But more important all of you, my patient and loyal readers, will finally get the story that you’ve been waiting so patiently for. I’m writing chapter 9 now, the other 8 are up. Let’s hope it brings smiles to us all. Lots of love to you.

  22. Annie :) says:

    Ani!!! What a delightful surprise to see your update. I have missed you so and check this site every so often when you come to my mind. Clearly it’s been a while as it is September and I feel like I just found buried treasure! I’m sad to hear about the challenges you have been through and I hope your days are getting better and brighter. Thankful for your return and am sooo excited to be immersed in your writing again. Be happy and be well! xo

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