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Flightless 
Releasing 1/23/17
Everyone has a story. 
Mine
went like this: Once upon a time, I met a boy. He was the most handsome
fella in the land. I fell in love. Together, we had cosmic chemistry. I
believed I would live a life of unending bliss. Until he broke my
heart. Shattered it to pieces. And I lived unhappily ever after instead.
The end.
Or so I thought. 
Life
found a way to reunite us. But to change that unhappy ending, I had to
learn how to forgive. And my heart seemed unable to do so. 
This
is a love story. But it is also, much more. It’s the story of how I
coped with my shortcomings, my fears and rewrote my destiny. Everyone
has a story. This is mine.

I
have found that there is only one thing better than reading, and that
is writing. I am always torn between the two. I am also frequently torn
between chocolate and coffee. However, I emphatically don’t like the
month of February, lies, and flies. For me, bravery is defined by the
courage to do what we fear the most. 
 I live in Connecticut with my husband and two children. Drop a few lines. I would love to hear from you. 
 
Email 
Goodreads                         
https://www.amazon.com/Fall-Out-Girl-L-Duarte-ebook/dp/B00U39E8QK/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 




                                                                             

https://www.amazon.com/Catch-Falling-Star-L-Duarte-ebook/dp/B00HKH29I2/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8https://www.amazon.com/Taste-Utopia-L-Duarte-ebook/dp/B01992Z2O8/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8     

https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Stars-L-Duarte-ebook/dp/B00DV88U96/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

I watched her grow. From afar, with uninterested eyes, I watched her grow. She grew in beauty, talent, and grace.
Her
mane of black hair flowed in cascades down her back like a tide of
obscure water. Its darkness contrasted with her round, sharp eyes. Eyes
that matched her stupid name, that matched the sky of an overcast day. 
She appeared determined and brave. She kept a perfect GPA, and she lived a life beyond reproach. 
She
fooled those surrounding her with the pretense of perfection, of
goodness. She didn’t fool me. I was the only one who looked at her with
sober eyes and saw beyond the façade. 
Until
then, whatever she wanted, she had gotten. I had to put a stop to the
life she had forged through lies. I was the vessel through which she
would be deterred. 
I
resented her for being so assertive. So successful. So deceitful. She
should be nothing. Have nothing. She must have been dead. 
Yet, she
breathed. The heart within her ribcage thumped in vindictive triumph.
She lived, ruining my plans, stealing my joy. Trying to take away my
happiness, and all that belonged to me. 
But
I was stronger than she was. Better at the game of life. I would be the
winner. I had weapons she didn’t possess. Discipline, foresight,
shrewdness. Most importantly, I had one crucial advantage: she had no
knowledge of my existence.

 

Chapter One

I
stepped back. Not literally, just figuratively. I did that with every
concert. I allowed my mind’s eyes to hover over me and my fans while I
analyzed and dissected the unique relationship between us.
As
I watched the multitude of people—a beautiful kaleidoscope of different
races and social statuses—my heart, in utter bliss, roared. 
The
audience held their hands upwards as if in an offering or a request. I
never knew which. In perfect synchrony, their arms rolled in waves like
the swaying of a stormy sea. Their voices cried out my name, and the
smell of their sweat and the heat of their mingled bodies emanated from
them, unfurling to me like the sweet perfume of incense. 
I
held the mic near my motionless lips and stared at them. At that
moment, I became one with thousands. At that moment, I took back from
the crowd all the energy I had fed them. And their vibe made me high and
drunk. It was my personal Nirvana. The kind of rapture that can only be
attained through uttermost intimacy. A oneness I had only felt with one
other person. A person who had severed that connection and shattered my
heart into a million shards of pain. 
I
worshiped them as they adored me. The exchange of atomic energy
contained nuclear power. I was drained from giving. They were wasted
from receiving. But we were both impossibly happy and satisfied. 
My
motionless lips finally moved, uttering the final words for the night.
The parting words. “Good night, Sydney!” I waved a hand back at them.
“You looked beautiful tonight. All forty thousand of you.” 
I
bowed. They deserved my reverence. People had spent their time camped
outside the venue waiting for a closer glance at me. They had spent
their precious earned money to see my performance. They were worthy of
my respect and gratitude. 
Another wave of a hand. A kiss. Another bow. And I was out. Another show was done. Eight more to go. 
I
jogged backstage and gave the mic to Jeremy, my makeup artist, in
exchange for a bottled water. He opened a portable case containing all
the potions that would quickly improve my appearance for the meet and
greet.  
Before
I took a swig from the bottle, Clara, my assistant, brusquely
interrupted my post-concert ritual. She snatched the bottle from my hand
and returned it to a confused Jeremy. “Gray. With me,” she demanded,
grabbing my elbow and urging me toward my changing room. 
I
glanced back at the stunned face of Jeremy. It was time for meet and
greet with the VIP’s. I needed to freshen up. My makeup had all but
melted under the stage lights. 
Once inside the privacy of the room, I demanded, “What’s going on?”
She raised a finger and said, “Wait.”
I
opened my mouth to protest. Instead, I swallowed the words. Clara was
usually a chatterbox; her clipped words quickly clued me in that
something was seriously wrong. 
As I waited, Clara dialed a number on her phone. Her silence became as unnerving as the red glare of an alarm light. 
“Betty,
I have Gray,” Clara said. Wordlessly, she shoved the device in my hand.
The door closed with a thud after she exited in a flurry of silent
drama.  
“Mama?” I asked holding the phone to my ear.
“Hey, Puppy,” Mama said in a soft, almost regretful tone. 
“What’s
going on?” I asked. Silence filled the other end of the line, only
increasing my concern. Mama knew I had just left the stage. She followed
my tour from home. Minute by minute. It was unusual for her to call me
so soon following a show. 
“How was, um, the, um, concert?” she asked. 
“Mama,
did you call me to ask how the show went?” I furrowed my brows and
every hair on my body stood at attention. Mama knew my routine during a
tour. After a performance, I had a brief meet with fans and then I would
go on hours of silence to rest my vocal cords. Although she knew she
could call me at any time, she never called until at least ten hours
following a show. 
“Mama?” I prodded after a long silence. 
“I have cancer,” she said bluntly. 
The
phone connection was perfect. No static. But Mama’s words hummed in my
ear with a tunnel-like quality. Distorted, altered, garbled. My mind,
however, had remained sharp and alert. Without much thought and after a
brief pause, I uttered the words, “I’m coming home.” I hadn’t said those
words in over a decade. Somehow, they didn’t taste as foreign as I had
imagined they would. 




                        ***


“Gray,”
I said. The word hovered on my tongue, saturating my taste buds with an
acrid taste. “Gray,” I repeated, letting it roll off my tongue. I did
that a lot. It was my name. 
Often,
I mused about my name. It hadn’t been given to me because it was
fashionable. Nevertheless, it had a history. My history. 
When
I was little, I liked to fancy its origin. The sky, I would think, was
painted gray the day I was born. I loved the theory. The unattainability
of the infinite mass of gray made it a great namesake. Whenever gray
clouds hovered in the sky, I would lay on my back and stare at them,
dreaming that when I grew up, I would build an enormous ladder, climb
it, and touch the gray painted dome. It was all, of course, a foolish
child’s dream, born out of vain imagination. I wasn’t born during the
day, nor was the sky gray. And it was most definitely not the
inspiration behind the choosing of my name. 
I was born in a graveyard. Serene Hills Cemetery, it was called, though its surface was flat. It was a fall night, October 20th, approximately 11 pm. 
They
found me covered in vernix. I used the term ‘they’ loosely. A dog found
me. A female German Shepherd mix that went by the name of Sunshine. Her
fur was golden. Shiny like sun rays. I had a newspaper cut-out of her.
It’s black and white, but it described her that way. In the shot, she
looked straight at the camera, two vivid round eyes dotting a long and
alert face. She had the knowing stare of someone who was aware she had
done a good deed. 
Obviously,
I don’t recall the details surrounding my birth. I was an infant. But I
had Mama tell me the story so many times, which after a while, the
images ingrained in my brain like the roots of a tree embedded in the
fertile soil. They became so real in my imagination that it felt as if
they were my recollections. 
I
was a born a preemie. Weak, small, and blotchy-faced. I was skin and
bones with a mop of black spiky hair, and a bad case of a cold.   
A
miracle, they called me. But I knew I was no wonder. I happened to have
the perfect concoction of healthy lungs and a loud cry. These, and the
sharp canine sense of hearing and smelling had saved me. I didn’t
believe in miracles. Not anymore. 
When
they found me, decay from the trees covered the ground on a fascinating
palette of colors—an array of red, yellow, purple, brown, orange,
golden, bronze. 
I
used to question why the leaves change colors and fall off the
branches. According to a scientific explanation, leaves are a weak and
feeble part of a plant. So, before the weather gets severely cold, the
trees should toughen up to protect themselves. Or simply dispose of the
leaves, the weak part. 
Personally, I believe
they turn colors before falling as revenge. A personal vendetta. And
for that I applaud them. They turn their death into a poetic and
alluring sight. That line of thought made me believe death was
beautiful. It fascinated me. It’s more interesting than birth, although
similar. 
I
had been abandoned under a pile of dead foliage. According to the
police investigation, it appeared my birth mother had buried me under
the leaves. Hid me. Like a criminal attempting to cover its tracks.
Supposedly, I spent the night under a cocoon of leaves. The tree’s decay
was soaked with blood and amniotic fluid. 
According
to Sunshine’s owner, they were walking on the sidewalk by the cemetery
when she heard a whizzing sound. Sunshine’s owner discarded the noise as
being the cry of squirrels. 
Sunshine
didn’t. At odds with her sweet nature, she became agitated and broke
loose. She squeezed through a small gap in the fence and disappeared
between the gravestones, leaving her owner in a frenzy. 
Less
than a minute later, Sunshine returned. Her mouth muzzled around my
small waist, my umbilical cord dragging, rattling the decayed leaves. 
I found my story fascinating, unique. Or so I told myself whenever I got teased at school. 
The hospital staff called me the Graveyard Miracle. Soon after, Gray for short. It stuck. 
I
spent three months in the hospital. That’s where Mama worked. The
graveyard shift. She fed me. She bathed me. She caressed my skin. “My
heart had not a chance. It fell madly in love with you,” she said,
whenever she told me my story. Her pale hand, dotted with freckles,
caressing my black, straight hair. 
 When I became her child officially, she quit the night job. “I had brought home my very own Graveyard Miracle.” 
She
found a day job at a pediatric clinic, occasionally helping at the
hospital for extra income. She continued working at the clinic
throughout my childhood, adolescence, and after I left home. She
remained there until cancer said, “No more.” Until cancer said, “I want
your time. From now on, you are going to dedicate every waking hour to
me. I’m egocentric. I want it all. I want your flesh and the total sum
of your soul.”
That’s why I was there, sitting in the back of a limousine Clara had rented to pick me up from JFK airport and take me home. 
“When should I schedule your flight to LA?” she had asked. “Only a one-way ticket for now,” I responded. 
32
Lorelai Lane, my childhood home. It was a small Victorian-style house,
built in 1929. The colorful foliage of a maple tree and an oak tree
framed the dwelling as if it was extracted from the pages of a fairy
tale book. When I was little, I used to fancy my house was lovely. The
most enchanting place in all realms. Staring at the house, I discovered
that I still thought that. It was the most magical place in the world
because it was the place that humans refer to it as ‘home’. And home is a
thing of fairy tales. Rare and pure. 
The
car door was wide open, awaiting me. I climbed out. The driver stood
straight as a pole. His hands perfectly folded in front of him, his face
impassive. I wondered how long he had stood there, waiting for me,
questioning my sanity. The luggage was lined up at the front porch. His
face remained expressionless when I pulled a generous tip from my purse
and handed it to him. “Thank you,” I murmured. 
He
drove off, the sound of the engine trailing off into the quiet street.
It was late at night. The crisp air smelled of burnt wood and autumn,
reminiscent of bonfires and fireplaces. 
I crossed the stone path leading to the front steps. 
The
hinges of the front door squeaked, and Mama slowly appeared as light
spilled out from inside the house. She leaned against the doorframe,
cocked her head, her eyes fixed on me. She knew me so well. She knew I
needed the time. 
I
peered up, carefully examining Mama’s face. It had been only two months
since I had last seen her, but she appeared decades older. Even under
the porch’s pale yellowed light, I could detect the lines circling her
mouth. Small bags sagged under her eyes, and her plump skin appeared
loose, dripping like melting wax. Her hair showed inches of gray and her
usual square and proud shoulders were smaller, fragile. But what got my
attention the most were her eyes. Their vivid green had turned opaque. 
The grief and sorrow in her stare set my feet in motion, and I climbed the steps. 
When
mama stepped forward, the old wooden floor groaned and creaked under
her feet. She came to a halt at the top of the stairs. Her lips curved
into a small smile, and her arms spread open in an inviting hug. 

As I stepped forward, my legs felt wobbly with the weight of so many years of absence.