All her life, Blanca has been haunted by the ghosts of a hidden past. Her search leads her back to Brazil, the native country of her parents. After a series of events and a truth unleashed, Blanca comes face to face with a stalker. She returns to her hometown of Madrid where she meets Carlos, a kind an understanding man whom she loves unconditionally. Will true love win out in the end as the stalker gets closer to his prey?
I am a Registered Counsellor with qualifications in Psychology, Education, and English as a Second Language. I also completed a Certificate in Professional Writing and Editing, and did a brief stint as a Proof reader.
I have started on the self-publishing path and write romantic suspense. I enjoy reading romantic suspense, romance, thrillers, crime, and saga.
I enjoy travelling to exotic places such as Madrid (part of the setting of my novella, Crystal Light), meditation, exercising, journal writing, and playing tennis.
My main character is finding her feet in a new country, the place her parents come from. She experiences nightmares and uneasiness around one of the characters she meets. She has a confidante in Jean and liaises with her boss of the magazine company.
This chapter is about creating a sense that Blanca has a mystery that she needs to discover, and one that causes her uneasiness. She experiences symptoms of trauma as she subconsciously knows that something happened to her as a child in Brazil. Her parents refuse to tell her what happened, so she needs to discover the secret on her own.
Blanca arrived at the magazine the next morning. It was a scorching day in February, and she felt hot and sweaty. She wore smart casual attire with a fitted silk blouse, pleated skirt, and medium-heeled wedges. Her heart skipped several beats as she walked towards the foyer with unnerving anticipation. She didn’t know what to expect, and wondered how Pedro had changed his mind about hiring her. Jean must have had some influence over him and she was obviously in charge of her area.
Spotting Pedro in the foyer, Blanca observed his stoic body language from afar. As he drew closer, she noticed that his expression was sombre and flat. His eyes seemed to avoid hers, and he produced a limp handshake.
Pedro showed Blanca to an office she would be sharing with Jean. The office consisted of a wide bay window with a memorable view of the city and river. It featured wall-to-wall paintings of prominent officials, mint-green thickly piled carpet, and a large mahogany desk with a computer, fax, and phone. Pedro directed her to her own small desk beside Jean, one that featured her own computer and stationery.
Jean rose from her desk and beamed at Blanca.
“Hi, Blanca. It’s good to see you.”
Pedro gazed briefly at Blanca. “I will let Jean get you started.” He walked away without a backward glance.
Jean walked over to a cabinet and unlocked it, pulling out a magazine. She showed it to Blanca.
“This is the magazine’s latest issue. It did very well, Blanca, and made the largest sales profit in five years.”
Blanca nodded. “That’s an interesting cover.”
“I think so.” She pulled out other piles of magazines. “We’re part of the state government of Rio de Janeiro, and we promote a lot of national and foreign companies. The magazine raises public awareness of all these companies that work hard to improve Rio’s economy.”
Blanca nodded. She found another magazine underneath the pile. “So I noticed you do the magazine in English as well.”
“Yes, it’s a bilingual magazine, and what I’d like your help with is to come up with article ideas for both the online and paper version of the magazine. We also do interviews with different stakeholders like government officials, business people, and students, just to get a range of perspectives on Rio’s economy and market. The magazine also works to promote global investment to boost the economy.”
Jean took Blanca over to other offices and introduced her to staff. She noticed the seriousness of the staff members who wore well-fitted suits and whispered softly within their small teams. It was a quiet environment and the staff looked very focused on their work.
They both stopped for lunch in the staff room and sat beside one another while others remained in their own group at other tables.
Jean asked, “So how are you getting along on your first day, dear?”
Blanca drew a hand through her curls. “It’s interesting and I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’ll only be here part-time.” Blanca sat beside her on the sofa and pondered. “How did you get Pedro to hire me?”
Jean’s eyes focused on her. “I’ve always had some influence over Pedro, especially when I’ve worked in the business for the past twenty years or so. He respects me and listens, but I still don’t know why he wouldn’t hire you. It could be because you’re part of Maria’s family and he saw it as a conflict of interest, but he wouldn’t tell me exactly why.”
Blanca’s stomach tightened, and she nodded. “What do you know about Pedro? I mean, he and my dad used to be best friends, but it seems as though they drifted apart. Do you know what happened?”
Jean shrugged. “I don’t know. It must’ve been before I worked here, so I wouldn’t have a clue, but I can ask him if you’d like.”
Blanca shook her head. “No, that’s fine. I can ask him another time.” Blanca clasped her hands in anticipation of further news about Pedro. “Does he have any family?”
Jean eyed her curiously. “He’s divorced with a thirty-six year old son, Jose. But if you ask me, that boy’s trouble. Always has been.”
Blanca was curious. “What do you mean exactly?”
“All I know is that whenever Jose’s in trouble, Pedro’s always there to bail him out. Then once that problem’s resolved, Jose starts again and manages to mess up. Then Pedro helps him all over again.”
“That doesn’t teach his son anything, does it?”
“Not at all, which is why I hope you don’t meet him. He lacks respect for women and I think it stems from his mother who left him as a child. I don’t think he ever got over that.”
Blanca felt sorry for any child who felt abandoned and lost, especially by his or her own mother. She wondered what Jose was really like. They eventually left the staff room and resumed work.
Later in the evening, Blanca fell straight into bed after eating dinner with Julio and Maria. Throughout the night, she tossed and turned in her sleep. Again, she experienced a nightmare. Initially, it started out as a beautiful, sunlit morning when suddenly, before her very eyes, a wide lagoon surrounded by trees and scrubs flashed forward in her dreaming mind. Around the lagoon was a distant shadow beckoning for her to come, but she couldn’t move. She stood frozen as an icy feeling took over her whole body. Entering a modern home, she felt suffocated as she spotted cobwebs and dirt in the living room. Her legs were frozen. She couldn’t breathe, and she felt trapped. She was waiting for someone to save her. Blanca woke up and gasped. Her eyes opened wide as she stared up at the ceiling. She wiped her damp forehead with a tissue and attempted to calm her rapid breathing. Placing her quivering right hand over her chest, she closed her eyes and tried to put the nightmare at the back of her mind. She got the sense that she knew that place, its darkness and coldness. Something had happened to her at this place, and she was determined to find out what it was. These recurring nightmares and the emptiness she always felt had to stop someday.
There was a staff meeting held the next morning in the conference room at the magazine. Blanca looked around the elongated oak table and noticed people staring straight ahead at Pedro. He was the chair of the meeting and sat at the head of the table. He commanded a presence as he started the meeting with the written agenda and then began with the first item.
“I’m wondering what we have for the next issue of the magazine.”
Hands raised and people spoke about articles showcasing the mining, oil and gas, and auto-manufacturing industries, all of which held a strong presence in the development of Rio de Janeiro.
“I spoke to a few people in industry about—aah—foreigners and Brazilians setting up businesses in Rio and how the economy’s grown because of the scope of business development. I guess it’s about the locals and foreigners looking for business opportunities in the heart of Rio.”
“That’s good. Well done Jean. I like it.”
Blanca limply raised her hand. “What about looking at how Rio’s developed since 2010—aah—and the concern about crime, particularly in the favelas?”
“That’s good, Blanca. Look into it with Jean. Interview a few people, and either make it a longer article merging the two ideas or have two separate articles. Just make it work, Jean. You too, Blanca.” He turned away from Blanca and searched the room for other article ideas.
“Now, any other suggestions?”
In the middle of their discussions, Blanca was surprised to see a man entering the room abruptly. She noticed his striking beauty. He had strong features, a Roman nose, and a dark complexion. His V-neck black shirt revealed soft hair strands on his robust chest. His baggy white trousers displayed the muscular outline of his waist, and he had rolled his sleeves up to show muscular, bronzed forearms. She saw him flip back the blonde tips of his hair through dark brown waves.
Pedro rapidly rose from his ergonomic chair and shook his head. Blanca heard the whispers to this younger man who had interrupted the meeting.
“What are you doing here? It’s not a good time.”
“I desperately need some cash right now.” Jose searched the room, and his eyes found Blanca. He licked his lips and smiled at her.
Blanca froze and turned away quickly, not wanting to give him the wrong impression.
Pedro turned to the staff members. “Excuse me a minute. I won’t be long. Just talk amongst yourselves.”
Blanca spoke to Jean quietly. “Who was that?”
Jean smiled. “That, my dear, is Jose—” And like I said, he is the definition of trouble. Obviously he needs cash for some kind of trouble he’s in. He’s bad news, and Pedro will never learn. No doubt he’ll give him the cash and problem solved—until the next time.”
Blanca felt uneasy seeing Jose interrupting their meeting. There was something about him that told her to stay away.
A few weeks later, Blanca and Jean were attending the Rio carnival, and Jean drove her into the city. Jean had mentioned that she was given the tickets from some of their investors as a business gift. Blanca thought they must’ve greatly appreciated the work done for them at the magazine. They arrived at the Sambadrome and took their seats. Blanca’s parents had told her about the Sambadrome which was an exhibition area for the samba-school parades during the Rio carnival. She was in awe of the tiered viewing by spectators that surrounded a long alley for the school parades to walk down to.
Blanca’s ears were stretched as voices around her screeched and the samba music resounded loudly in front of her. She noticed the dancers’ skimpy costumes, feathered attire, and fancy headpieces as they danced to the rhythmic percussion beats in their Latin moves. Blanca also saw floats and the samba schools parading wearing rich costumes and other dancers wearing masks. The bright lights and spectacular show could feed an entire third-world nation, Blanca thought.
Blanca suddenly felt like someone was watching her from a distance, but she was being silly. With a crowd this astronomical in size, there were bound to be people watching her. She stiffened slightly.
“Are you okay?” Jean shouted amongst the noise.
Blanca nodded. “This is amazing.”
“There is more to come. Just wait and see.”
Blanca continued to feel unnerved, but couldn’t understand why. Her hands were shaking slightly as she breathed deeply. The entire crowd cheered, clapped, and screamed to those in the parade, but Blanca shut them out and suddenly felt unwell.
Blanca ignored the feeling and managed to absorb herself with the fun-filled excitement and colour of the night. Music blared and a new string of people wore fancy costumes and masks while the wild, erotic dancing continued.
Blanca suddenly noticed a familiar figure approach her and Jean. He had taken off a mask he was wearing. She felt her skin crawl and her face felt flushed; she couldn’t focus. The entertainment, music, and dancing did little to arouse fun in her. The man, whom she recognised as Pedro’s son, Jose, was holding the devilish-looking mask he had worn. He shook hands with Jean, who smiled at him. Blanca got the feeling it wasn’t a genuine smile.
“What are you doing here, Jose? How did you get tickets?” Jean shouted.
“Oh, I’m friends with one of the girls at the magazine. She wanted me to join her, so she managed to get me another ticket.”
“So where is she?”
Jose pointed to an area that was quite close. “She’s just over there.”
“So you’ve come all through this crowd just to say hello? There was no need, my dear.”
Jose stared at Blanca. “So who’s this fine creature?”
Jean half-heartedly mentioned, “It’s Blanca. She just started working with us as at the magazine.”
“Sweet.” He moved forward to shake her hand. “I’m Jose, Pedro’s son.”
Blanca managed a half-hearted smile. “Nice to meet you.”
Jose stood close to her side, and she could smell his musky cologne that almost made her gasp. He must’ve had a bath in it, she thought. Blanca ignored Jose and continued to watch the show. She was hoping he would leave, as there were no available seats around them. Why didn’t he return to his female friend? Why did she feel uneasy around him? She didn’t even know the guy.
When Jose moved even closer, she found it hard to breathe. She listened to the sounds of the Latin and African beats and looked out over the crowd. She then turned slightly to her right and noticed his eyes fixated on her.
“You know, you look familiar. Have we met before?”
Blanca shook her head. “How could we have met? I’ve only been in Rio de Janeiro for a few weeks.”
Jose angled his head. “I don’t know. You do look familiar to me, and you’re very beautiful. I’m certain that no-one could ever forget those erotic facial features of yours.” He chuckled. “Sorry, I’m an erotic-fiction writer, and I’d love to write about you in one of my books.”
Blanca was beginning to sweat, and several dark images flashed past her, but she couldn’t work out what those images were. With a slight touch on the hand by Jean, Blanca felt rescued at last. “Why don’t you go join your friend, Jose?”
Blanca noticed his eyes darken. “But I’m enjoying talking to your friend here. I’m sure she doesn’t mind. Do you mind, Blanca?”
Blanca shrugged and turned away. As if he got the message, he winked at both of them and rejoined his female friend.
“Are you okay, dear?” Jean asked. “You’re shaking. What did he say to you?”
“Nothing, I’m fine. Just fine.” Blanca managed a smile and couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling of impending doom.
After leaving the Sambadrome, they visited the street carnivals and listened to a band called Banda de Ipanema. They danced in the biggest street party just outside the Sambadrome drinking and eating the assorted foods. Blanca was able to immerse herself in the samba music consisting of sounds formed by percussion instruments.
As the night came to an end for Blanca and Jean, Jean dropped her off at the house. Blanca fell into a deep sleep, but the night was not kind to her. She dreamed of blood, crystals strewn on a floor, and a large hand reaching closer, closer, and closer. She was trapped in an enclosed room. The room was getting smaller, smaller, and smaller as if threatening to crush her. Her world was spinning when she woke up in a sweat. She was determined to find the source of these recurring nightmares that had to mean something, and surely were related to the mystery surrounding her previous visit to Rio de Janeiro.