Have you ever had a story touch you so much, you’re afraid to commit it to paper? A couple of years ago, I was part of a writing group of aspiring authors,many of whom are still my friends, a group I left once I became published. Once a month, they had a writing challenge where you wrote a short story based on a few words and a situation.
I wrote that month’s entry on a section I eventually rewrote into Just for The Weekend. Worried I might not be able to use what I’d created after it was posted. I wrote a second story instead. In the last couple of years, I’ve thought about that story and reworked it. I have plans to turn it into a novel later this year.
I give you a revised and edited REUNITED originally published as FATED.
Julie sighed. Unable to stand the pressure and longing, she’d bought her ticket to Pompeii, the place that called to her in the dreams—the place where her heart was. Each night for more than a year, she fell into the arms of the man she loved more than life itself. She felt his hands caress her skin, tasted his lips, his mouth on her as he kissed her until she was so hot she thought she’d combust, and then he’d enter her, and her climax far more earth-shattering than anything she’d felt before, would leave her exhausted. But then the tears would come… This obsession ended today, one way or another.
So what if I’ll be eating peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni and cheese for the rest of the year? The sacrifice is worth it.
The compulsion to go to Italy had started when she’d visited the local museum’s exhibit on Pompeii. As she’d toured the display cases and viewed the graphic, sometimes horrific photographs, her sense of déjà vu was so strong, it had left her weak and dizzy. That bronze krater had sat in Flavia’s entrance. The metal coffer belonged in her uncle’s house. She’d stared at the gold necklace, recognized its ninety-four intricately carved ivy leaves, and knew the smooth roundels were loose. A frisson shook her as she visualized herself, dressed in a lilac stola, admiring the lovely creation a man hung around her neck, his fingers lingering there, filling her with desire.
She’d left the museum stunned, crippled emotionally. Grief, fuelled by on-going dreams of a caramel-eyed lover, had intensified each day, until unable to function any longer, she’d drained her savings and purchased a ticket to Italy. If she could sever this psychic connection or at least get a grip on it and understand it, the price would be well worth it.
So far, coming to Italy hadn’t changed a thing. In the Trajan Market, instead of the red brick ruins standing unchanged for centuries, she saw a thriving market place. Her carved necklace had come from a goldsmith’s shop on the second floor.
At the Coliseum, she’d seen the amphitheater under construction as it had been the last time she’d visited Rome—and she had definitely been here before. Everywhere she looked, she caught ghostly glimpses of Roman temples, palaces, and houses where she knew churches and modern structures stood.
A bump on the road dragged her back to the moment and the crowded motor coach, filled with eager tourists, snaking its way to Mount Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii. The bus stopped and she shivered.
“None of the citizens Pompeii and Herculaneum expected August 24, 79 A.D. to be their last day,” began the tour guide. “No one realized the earthquake of 63, which had caused extensive damage to both cities, was only the precursor of a cataclysmic event. When Mount Vesuvius erupted, three meters of volcanic ash covered the town within twenty-four hours before the four pyroclastic flows, ground-hugging avalanches of lava and poisonous gas moving at more than 100 km/hour, destroyed every living thing. Come; listen to the death throes of Pompeii.”
He led them into the excavation. As they walked, he continued his narrative, and Julia grew uneasy. With each step she took, the familiarity increased. Suddenly, everything vanished to be replaced by the images of another time.
“Sabinus, how much longer can it continue?” she asks, cradling her distended stomach. The child is due any day. “Dust and ash stand several pes deep in the streets. The heavy rugs we placed over the window openings aren’t enough to keep it out of the house. Look. It covers the furniture to a full digitus. I find it hard to breathe.”
“It’s almost over, my love. I spoke with the priest at Apollo’s temple. He assures me Vesuvius, the giant beneath the mountain, has awakened again, but Vulcan will soon calm him. They’ve made the necessary sacrifices. You know the priests. If there were any danger, they’d have abandoned the temples by now.”
He holds her close, and she knows he feels the movement of their child pressed between them. She coughs, and he releases her to get her another cup of wine.
“Drink this; then you must rest, my dove. We leave for Rome at dawn.” He picks her up gently and carries her to the bed. He bends and kisses her, and all the love they share is in that quick meeting of lips.
“Husband, lie with us until I fall asleep?” she asks. He smiles and nods.
She lays on her side, his arms encircling her and the child, pulling them tightly against him. She listens to his even breathing as he sleeps, and relaxes.
It’s almost midnight when the first wave of hot ash, pumice, rock fragments, and volcanic gas hit the town. Awake, unable to breathe, she gasps and cries out as the upper floor of the house collapses on them, exposing them to the poisonous gas and fire bombs. He tries to shield her, but there’s no escape.
Julie couldn’t breathe. Tears coursed down her cheeks. Everything went black.
“She’s coming to!”
“Give her room. I’ve brought a dottore,” cried the tour guide pushing his way through the crowd.
“I’m fine,” she croaked. Her head and body ached. She felt empty.
A man bent down beside her and she sucked in a quick breath. She recognized those caramel eyes—the eyes of the man she loved. Tears of joy and incredulity ran down her cheeks. Had Fate brought her to Italy for this?
“Signorina, let me look at you,” he asked and she saw the recognition and confusion in his eyes. “I’m Dottore Stephano Boriello. Have we met?”
He touched her and desire flooded. He jerked his hand away as if sensing it too. He helped her stand, putting his arms around her protectively.
She smiled. “Julie Martin.”
Don’t forget to check out the other great Mid Week challenge posts.