Here's a sneak peek of the prologue to Joshua's Folly:
Marisa’s eyes fluttered open, her lashes tickling her tear-stained cheeks. The surrounding room was unfamiliar and for just a moment she wondered where she was.
She sat up quickly, too quickly. Pain washed through her little body in waves, the kind of pain she’d never felt before in all of her eleven years.
She almost cried out, but then she remembered where she was and she didn’t want to wake up her new family. If she caused too much trouble, maybe they wouldn’t want her anymore, maybe they’d send her away.
Where would she go?
They were nice. They were kind. They told her they loved her very much.
They were strangers.
Her stomach rumbled loudly. She hadn’t eaten very much dinner. If they thought she didn’t eat very much then they’d know she wouldn’t be too much of a nuisance to them. And they’d keep her. Please let me stay, I don’t have anywhere else to go.
Marisa’s eyes wandered around the room. It was just like a room she’d seen in a magazine once. It was called, “a little girl’s dream room.” Everything was pink. The walls were pink, the carpet was pink, the bedspread was pink, the ruffled canopy overhead was pink.
She liked pink.
It was a beautiful room. A room for a princess. She especially liked the wallpaper border. It was filled with pink bows all connected together as if the bows were holding hands.
She should feel happy.
But she didn’t. She felt so sad that all she wanted to do was cry. Not just cry, she wanted to sob.
I want my mommy and daddy.
Marisa berated herself. She wasn’t five years old anymore. But it didn’t stop her from yearning for her mommy and daddy.
Mary had left the hall light on. Her room wasn’t dark. That was good because she hated the dark. The dark scared her.
Everything scared her.
She wanted to go home.
Mary said this was her home now.
But it wasn’t her home and it never would be. She didn’t have a home anymore. She didn’t have a mommy and daddy anymore.
Marisa collapsed onto her bed and curled into a tight little ball. The movement made the pain come back. She changed positions, straightening her legs, stretching them out as far as they would go in the huge double bed. She told her body to relax and let her sleep.
It didn’t work.
The pain wouldn’t let her sleep. No position was comfortable. The sheets felt cool on her skin. The nightgown was brand new and made her skin feel itchy. The room felt weird and kinda creepy. It was so unfamiliar, so foreign. Marisa grabbed the cute little teddy bear sitting on the nightstand and hugged it tightly to her chest. Clearly, Mary and Jerome had wanted a younger child. A cute, frilly little girl who would squeal at the sight of ‘the little girl’s dream room.’ She couldn’t be that little girl. A few more tears escaped as she cried as quietly as she could. Her heart hurt the most of anything, as if she didn’t have a heart in her chest anymore; instead it was a huge, heavy rock. A boulder. Lodged in her chest. Heavy and tight.
Marisa’s eyes wandered the room again. Everything was brand sparkling new. Fresh.
Except for herself. She was broken. Damaged.
I’m sooooo cold.
Her eye’s wandered to the hallway. The walls were covered with family pictures. Framed, nameless faces. More strangers. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong anywhere. I’m all alone.
Marisa climbed out of bed. She couldn’t sleep. Not here. Not ever. Mary said the pain would lessen as time went by. Mary said she hoped she would be very happy here. She liked Mary. Very much.
But sleep was so hard. Nighttime was so cold. And she was so alone.
Marisa tiptoed into the hallway and stared at Mary’s family pictures. Happy, smiling faces. Joyful occasions. The precious moments of life, captured and remembered forever.
Her eyes rested on one photo in particular. Once it caught her attention, she was hard pressed to look away. Warmth trickled through her body, right down to her toes. It was the first time she’d felt warm in many days.
It was a picture of a young man. He was handsome, maybe just a few years older than her. He smiled into the camera as if he didn’t have a care in the world. He was outdoors, the sun shining in his windblown hair, his blue eyes glistening with life. He looked directly into the camera lens, giving her the sense that he was staring into her own eyes. There was something about him that made her feel . . . safe, and she longed to climb into the photo, just to be at his side.
“Stay with me forever and never leave me. Promise?” she’d ask him.
“I promise,” he’d say. “I love you, Marisa. I love you.”
Sometimes a promise to stay together forever didn’t work out. She knew that all too well.
Mary must’ve sensed her restlessness because she came to check on her. “Marisa, are you okay, sweetheart?”
“Yes, I’m so sorry if I woke you.”
“You didn’t. I just wanted to make sure you were doing all right.”
“I’m okay,” Marisa answered, trying to force a smile. Be happy. Be thankful. Be on your best behavior.
“Trouble sleeping?” Mary asked, concern lacing her features.
“Yes, I’m sorry. I’ll go back to bed. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
“You didn’t, Marisa, really. I wanted to check on you. I was worried about you,” Mary said, touching her shoulder softly.
Mary was wonderful. Really wonderful. Marisa valiantly held back the tears that threatened to erupt. Maybe even explode. She wasn’t sure, but she knew if she started crying, she might start screaming too. It wouldn’t be pretty.
“Who is this?” Marisa asked, pointing to the picture of the handsome young man. Another glance at him and the same thing happened. Warmth infused her body.
“That’s my nephew, Joshua. He lives in Texas on our family’s cattle ranch.”
“He’s very handsome.”
“Yes, he is.”
“He reminds me of a prince in a fairy tale, you know, the ones who always save the damsel in distress. The knight in shining armor who rides up on his white steed and whisks the princess away to his castle.” Marisa sighed. “I read a lot,” she said by way of explanation for her overactive imagination.
Mary smiled. “Joshua is that kind of a young man, always ready to help anyone in need.”
A few tense moments of silence passed. Marisa continued to hold the ever-threatening tears at bay. The constant, raw ache inside of her body, mind, and spirit refused to subside. Would it always be a part of her?
“I’ll be right back,” Mary said softly as she walked away rather purposefully.
Marisa heard the sounds of rummaging through boxes from the hallway closet. She breathed in deeply and let the air out slowly, feeling completely overwhelmed by her new life circumstances. Slowly, she placed her fingers to her lips and kissed them softly. Then she placed her fingers to the picture of Joshua. “Save me,” she whispered.
When Mary returned, she held a picture in her hands. It was the same picture of Joshua that graced the wall.
“Come on, let’s get you tucked back into bed.”
Mary took her by the hand and led her to the pink canopied bed. She carefully helped her to slide under the covers, then pulled the blankets up to her chin. She placed a soft kiss on her forehead ever so lightly.
“Here’s a picture of Joshua for you,” she said as she slipped it under her pillow. “There. Now Joshua will always be with you, keeping you safe at night. He won’t let anything happen to you, I promise. He’ll be your very own guardian angel, your very own handsome prince.”
“Thank you, Mary,” Marisa breathed as sleep claimed her.
She was safe.