rad reflection pool
i so dig the Taj Mahal
“Oh, Miss. Hello, Miss! MISS! HELLO?!?!” said the impatient man at the counter. The last few bellows from him shocked her back into reality quite harshly.
“I’m so sorry, Sir. I was somewhere else for a moment,” Caroline told the customer, feeling hot with embarrassment. She quickly rushed to the counter to attend to his needs.
“A moment?” he asked rather angrily. “More like a lifetime; that’s why I had to get so loud with you! Completely spaced out, is what you were!”
Geez, suck it, male Karen. “I know, my apologies, again. Don’t worry. I’m all here now, ready to focus on my job. Plus, I’ll end up in tears if I continue to think about it, Caroline thought to herself. “Thanks for bringing me back to the here and now,” she said with a weak smile.
The customer calmed down a bit but still radiated disdain for Caroline as he was giving her his order. She filled out the ticket with his specifications, picked up the menu with an exaggerated thank you and over-the-top friendliness hoping to appease him. And watch, he’ll leave me a $1 tip for kissing his ass. Caroline turned towards the kitchen, rolling her eyes hard towards the ceiling. I cannot WAIT for this shift to be over!
Her workday ended without any other distractions, and thankfully, no more angry customers. Caroline was happy to punch her time card, looking forward to putting up her feet and relaxing at home.
“Hey, sweetie,” her eyes lit up as she walked into her apartment communicating affectionately with her furry black and white friend. He countered with enthusiastic mewing and snuggling up against her, walking gingerly between her legs. She bent down to pick him up, then quickly sat on the couch to give him her fullest attention. He never failed to bring a smile to her face, his warmth and affection always gave her comfort.
Caressing her friend, Caroline allowed herself to go back to the past again now that she was home, where she could easily, and without interruption, let herself daydream. And cry.
The memories of that summer took over again, vivid as always. Caroline relived those passionate, fun-filled, and carefree three months of her life. It was one of the happiest times of her life. Going to Germany had been the best decision, but so hard to leave once the summer was over. No one could have predicted that Caroline and Thomas would find true love. They were all sad her visit had to end, especially the new couple. Regardless, they were determined to make this long-distance relationship work somehow; excitedly, they made plans for their future.
And then, just a month later, she received a devastating letter from Thomas. It shook her to her core. In it, he wrote her that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He said he was so thankful they had the summer together as it turned out they wouldn’t have a future. He hadn’t the strength to tell her this over a call. By the time she got this letter, he had told her he would be dead. It was a rare, very aggressive, and terminal form of cancer. Her love story was over and a phone call from Katja confirmed it.
“I love you, Tomcat,” Caroline said through heavily flowing tears. The sobs tore through her body as she pulled him closer.
Thanks so much for your support of this series! See you next month!
Katja looked up from her magazine to see her guest had awoken. “Perfect timing! We’ll be having Kaffee shortly!” Both smiled, Caroline looking not quite awake, though. “I got your favorite – Pflaumen Kuchen mit Schlagsahne. I suspect you could use some coffee again? Haha.”
“HAHA!” Caroline said sarcastically in an exaggerated tone and body language. “Yes, go ahead and make fun of me, but you know this happens every time. It’s always like this on my first day – eat, sleep, eat, sleep.” She slammed herself down next to Katja and put her head on her shoulder, yawning a bit.
“So, how was your nap, Miss Caroline?” she said sweetly. “Any interesting dreams?” Katja had a twinkle in her eye as she stared at her friend inquisitively.
“You know me too well, Katja!”
“Of course I do. We’re best friends, remember?”
“True that, but let’s talk about something else. I’m not going to get my hopes up. Thomas is probably just curious as to what became of me since we moved back to the US, nothing more.”
“Okay, I’ll let it be. We’ll see how things go at dinner Sunday. But I, for one, am hoping things go well with you two,” Katja said quickly. Unbeknownst to Caroline, Katja had kept a few things to herself. She didn’t admit that she swooned a bit when she ran into Thomas a few days ago. After all, Caroline liked him first, and friends don’t betray friends. But yet, internally, Katja felt that Thomas was magnificent. He had gone from a gorgeous heartthrob of a teenager to a tall, mysterious-looking, well put together man. So much so that even she was taken aback a bit, drawing in a quick breath when she realized who he was. Thankfully, Caroline didn’t pick up on any of her feelings. “So you ready for some Kaffee, Madam?”
“Well, duh, because you know I’m not going to be coherent until tomorrow morning!” Caroline laughed at her host. “Are Elsa and Klaus here?”
“Klaus is downstairs working on his train set, and I expect Elsa should be back shortly. She said she had to pick up something for her mom, but she would be back for Kaffee und Kuchen.”
“So how does it feel to be living here without your parents? Are you and Klaus adjusting to the circumstances?” Caroline looked at her friend, concerned, knowing the loss of half her family was quite an unexpected shock earlier this year. Their tragedy was also one of the reasons she wanted to spend quality time with them. She hoped to be part of their healing.
Katja looked at Caroline with sadness in her eyes; her shoulders drooped slightly, gratefully leaning into her friend. “It’s been hard losing them both. Klaus and I barely being adults to understand what the future held for us was difficult enough to begin with, but knowing they would never be in our lives again, that wasn’t easy. You know how close we all were. I think Klaus took it a lot harder just because he’s never been one to be emotional about things; he keeps it all bottled up inside.” Katja sighed deeply.
The doorbell rang just as Caroline embraced her friend.
“Ah, that must be Elsa,” Katja brushed away a solitary tear and straightened herself up. “Kaffee und Kuchen!”
TO BE CONTINUED ON FRIDAY…
“How could I forget him? We lived right next door for four years!” The vivid memories of her childhood crush flooded her brain quickly. Caroline grabbed the railing to steady herself. She began to feel slightly flushed as well. Oh, grow up, Caroline, she thought to herself.
“Well, I ran into him recently. We chatted about our lives for a bit. He was a cab driver for a while, now works at a lab as a chemist. Eventually, I shared with him that you were coming for a visit with us. It seems he was quite excited to hear that you would be in town!” Katja gave her friend a knowing nudge as they walked up the staircase. “So much so that he asked if he could come to say hi. He’ll be coming here tomorrow night for dinner,” Katja said with a wide grin.
“What?” Caroline could barely contain herself. Trying to be calm, she casually said, “Well, that will be interesting and fun to talk to him now as an adult. Do you think he ever noticed how starry-eyed I used to get around him?”
“He may not, but I remember! You would positively drool every time he came around when we used to play out in front of your house.”
“Yeah, I remember too. Gosh, we were such kids to him back then, I’m sure. Wasn’t he like four years older than us?”
“Ja, it seemed like we were irritants to him, especially when his friends were around.” Katja looked around the room to make sure everything that Caroline would need was there. “So, I’ll leave you to get some rest. Can I get you anything else while I’m up here?”
“No, thank you, Katja. I’m good. I just need a little downtime. Thank you for everything!” They exchanged heartfelt hugs, both beaming with joy to be back in each other’s company. Katja turned and shut the door behind her quietly.
Caroline sighed deeply, looking forward to resting her head and her body. The jetlag was hitting hard; all she wanted was to wrap up in a warm blanket. Caroline quickly shed her clothes and lay down on the bed. She pulled the familiar down-filled German Bettdecke up around her neck and nuzzled herself in as if it was her cocoon. It wasn’t long before she had drifted off to sleep with slow rhythmic breaths.
The room was getting chilly as the night air had gone down a few degrees. Caroline began to stir under her blanket; the crispness in the room brought her out of her haze.
It didn’t surprise Caroline that she awoke to dreams of Thomas, scenes she could easily imagine coming true. Smiling to herself, she was hopeful and full of expectations for the next day.
TO BE CONTINUED ON THURSDAY…
Caroline managed about ten-minutes of shut-eye to feel refreshed again. She unpacked her clothes and situated all her belongings neatly within the dresser and closet. A quick brush through the bedhead mess her short nap gave her, Caroline then quickly bounded down the steps, eagerly looking forward to wrapping her lips around a hearty German Frühstück. The smell of strong coffee met her nose as she descended the staircase. Breathing it in deep just made her more excited for her breakfast. Ah, she had missed this!
“I see you are looking a bit more relaxed now,” Klaus smiled in her direction as he watched Caroline come into the large living space sitting with Elsa on the oversized leather couch she remembered from her youth. Many afternoons were spent on that couch, loudly chattering or playing board games. She could still hear the giggles they elicited from one another. Those were such good times. Having these three as friends at that time meant the world to her, especially when things got bad at the end before she moved to the US permanently.
The dining area was off to the side of the room, adorned with all the goodies she expected – delicious fruit-sweetened quark, soft-boiled eggs, hearty German bread, as well as Brötchen, jams, and an assortment of local lunchmeats. Her mouth immediately started drooling as her eyes got bigger and bigger. She was ravenous after that long international flight.
Katja, bringing in the coffee pot, motioned for Caroline to sit down. “Komm, you too, Klaus und Elsa.” Obediently, everyone sat down at Katja’s direction. She always was the one who gave orders, like it was her place to do so. Being the oldest, maybe she felt she’d earned that position. Or perhaps she was just a natural-born leader, and they all just fell in line. Regardless, they all accepted the hierarchy as it was.
“I will do my best to stay up as long as I can, but you know the jet-lag will hit me soon enough. Probably right after I eat my fill from this magnificent spread,” Caroline said to her friends. “Oh, how I’ve missed all this! You can’t get the types of lunchmeat in the states like you can here. It’s so fresh and tasty! And quark doesn’t even exist there!” They all looked at her, surprised.
Elsa piped up, “They don’t have quark?” She honestly looked shocked to hear that. Everyone always thought America would be more progressive than that, apparently not.
“No, the closest thing I’ve found is greek yogurt. It’s good but not the same. It’s usually too sweet or too creamy and doesn’t have that tangy taste. Hopefully, we’ll see it in the future, or maybe I just haven’t found it yet.” Caroline dipped her spoon in the quark, then savored its taste in her mouth. “In the meantime, I will get my fill while I’m here.” They all laughed heartily.
Hours passed as they reminisced about their youth. Klaus dabbed his mouth with his napkin and pushed back his chair as he turned to hear Caroline’s first deep yawn.
“Tja, it might be time for our guest to take a break now.” Klaus held Caroline’s chair and encouraged her to go to her room to take it easy. “We’ll be here when you are feeling a little more awake.”
Katja put her arms around Caroline. “By the way, you remember Thomas Martin, right?”
TO BE CONTINUED ON WEDNESDAY…
I’ve decided to change things a bit with the format of the 5 Day Tales stories. Last month, you’ll recall, I selected the ending. I wanted to let you know that I will continue to do so on future tales. My goals this year will keep me very busy, and unfortunately, as much as developing three different endings have been fun, it’s just not feasible for my health or sanity at this time. I may decide to go back to have my audience pick the ending again in the future but let’s see how it goes.
Sweet Caroline played in the background of the store where she worked. A wicked smile crossed her lips, and a familiar warmth spread throughout her body. The song rekindled the memories of the summer they fell in love. It was the song he would always sing to her, whether as a greeting or after they had made love. They were so wild and carefree. He adored her, and she felt the same about him. Caroline’s eyes glazed over as if in a trance; she got swept up into her past once again.
She was 17, just shy of her 18th birthday. As a graduation present to herself, she had decided to visit Germany, taking the summer off before jumping into the rest of her future. Caroline had arranged to spend the next three months in the old neighborhood she’d lived in when her father was stationed there in her preteen days. She had so many good times there, and her past beckoned to recreate the magic. Plus, her childhood friends insisted Caroline come back for a visit, graciously offering up their homes to her. How could she pass up this opportunity in her old stomping grounds with her good friends? She looked forward to celebrating her adulthood overseas in their company. Although her parents thought she was foolish, they knew nothing would keep her from following her dreams, given her tenacity. So off she went.
On Saturday morning, Caroline arrived at the Frankfurt Airport, her friends franticly waving and screaming when they saw her coming coming through the gate. She moved excitedly towards them with her arms wide open, careful not to trip over her luggage. After many years of just corresponding, it was a happy reunion; their hugs were welcome and so long overdue. Caroline felt like she had come home again.
With their arms intertwined, they all took off towards Katja’s car in the underground parking lot, managing to giggle and laugh the entire way. Once they arrived at the stall, the bags were stored away easily even though the car was small, typical for Europeans. They primarily drove energy-efficient cars, not like the gas guzzlers she was used to in the States.
Katja asked Klaus to sit in the back with Elsa so Caroline could sit in the front. “You know I only ask you because Caroline has such long legs!” she said. “It would be very uncomfortable for her to be in the back.” Nonetheless, feigning anger, he acquiesced to her demand with a smile.
With everyone situated, off they went. Caroline was enjoying seeing the sights on the drive back to Katja and Klaus’ house. There was not one silent moment as they all chimed in with news of their lives, smoothly going back and forth from German to English and back again. What took an hour seemed to pass very quickly with all the commotion going on in the car.
When they arrived, Klaus gathered her bags and showed her to her room. They were so sweet to remember she loved having flowers in her room as she eyed the beautiful vase with colorful, fragrant blossoms next to her bed.
“Thank you so much, Klaus. I appreciate you and Katja for your generous offer to stay here.”
“It is our pleasure, Caroline! Take a few moments to freshen up and relax. We will have a decent German breakfast ready for you when you come down.
TO BE CONTINUED ON TUESDAY…
Monday thru Friday flew by as it turned out to be an unusually stressful work week, clocking 57 hours the first four days. Ailsa was happy only to work 8 hours on Friday. She was ready for her getaway. Thankfully, the weather gods were on her side; the trip to Aisla Craig was a go! She’d transport over there after the last tour left shortly after 5 pm. Then the island would be all hers. With it being June, the sun wouldn’t set until around 11 pm, leaving her plenty of time to get the tent and campfire set up.
Shortly after she got home from work, she was ready and got into her little red suitcase. It was tight with all the camping gear and her food, but it all fit. She was careful only to bring what she needed for the night and the next day. With the latch closed behind her, she was gone.
Aisla arrived at the old lighthouse interior, not knowing what to expect. She was a bit eeked out because of the lack of maintenance on the property, dust everywhere, and all the remaining artifacts were either broken or in deplorable condition. Wow, so this is where they conceived me! She stood there in disbelief. Good thing I planned to sleep outside, was all she kept thinking.
With the tent set up and an intense fire going, she decided to hike around a bit. Thankfully, the spot she chose wasn’t very windy. As Aisla was walking, she recalled her research. The island, located 10 miles off Scotland’s west coast, was considered a volcanic plug. This remnant of a volcano known for its blue hone granite was quarried and used to make curling stones.
“Hello there! What are you doing here?” Aisla spun around to see a man standing a few feet away from her. He didn’t look dangerous, but who knew? What was he doing here at this time? She had made sure there wouldn’t be anyone on the island when she got there.
“Hello, I could ask you the same thing!”
“Well, my name is Daniel Craig, and I visit every so often.”
“Craig, as in Aisla Craig?”
“Yes. I was named after the island. It’s a long romantic story. My parents conceived me here.”
Aisla couldn’t contain her surprise or her laugh when she heard that. “You’re not going to believe this. I’m named Aisla Craig after the island too, and for the exact reason. My parents did the hanky-panky here about 30 years ago!”
“Well, I’ll be, that is fascinating! And the other thing is that we are also related if we carry the same last name! Can you tell me a little bit about your ancestry to figure out where our lines cross?”
They both walked back to the camp, sat by the fire for hours, and got to know each other better. It turned out that Daniel was her Third Cousin and his lineage came from the Great-Great-Grandparents, specifically the Great-Grand Uncle of that union. They were both stunned, learning they were long-lost cousins. More importantly, Ailsa found out that their suitcases were the only ones in the family! This was the first time either of them had ever spoken to another person about it but reckoned it had to be okay considering their history.
“Well, here’s to finally having a travel companion!!” Aisla said, both beaming with joy.”
“So, where are we going next?”
Thanks so much for your support of this series! See you next month!
Ailsa’s Apartment – Saturday 3 PM
Without any sound or intrusive movements, Ailsa’s suitcase bubble immediately appeared on her bedroom floor. Once situated solidly, she unlatched the case and stepped out. Gathering her dirty clothes, she lofted them into her hamper. She pulled her black essentials bag out and checked the level of her lotions, perfume, and make-up to ensure there was enough for the next visit. She filled the bottles, dropped the little black bag in the suitcase and then proceeded to push it under her bed.
Ailsa’s head was definitely back in the US as her first thought was that it was time for PJs and a cup of coffee. If only she’d purchased some of the Parisian coffee while she was there. The rich brew was such a highlight during her stay. Oh well, she decided, she’d get some the next time she went to France. Maybe sooner rather than later since it would still be beautiful for the next few months.
She moseyed towards the kitchen to brew the coffee, which would help combat the mid-afternoon blahs she felt coming on. Once her steaming cup was in front of her, a small snack as well, she pulled out her pencil and travel journal. She wanted to put down some thoughts and details about her visit, then plan the following week’s trip. Flipping to the Paris, France entry she’d created, she proceeded to write everything down. The front of her journal held the long bucket list of adventures, almost a year’s worth of trips planned. It grew every time she ran across information about another exciting place to visit. Her goal was to be able to see every one of those destinations before she died. Ailsa knew that traveling would become a daily event once she retired from her job. That was the only reason she busted her butt so much, sometimes working 60+ hours/week. She anticipated leaving the rat race at 50 years of age, leaving her still healthy and vibrant enough to travel extensively.
Next week’s adventure was a visit to Cape Town, South Africa, but having just talked about her place of conception with the attendant in Paris, she decided to visit the island of Aisla Craig instead. A while ago, she’d found out that it was owned by The Marquess of Ailsa and had become a bird sanctuary. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was leasing the island until 2050. The weather channel indicated that it should be pleasant, but she would continue to check throughout the week. This way if the weather got bad, she’d implement her backup plan. But the possibility of going thrilled her immensely. It would be so peaceful and scenic with it being closed down to the public. Ailsa thought back to the last time she’d camped out. It was fun “roughing it”, as she recalled. Hopefully, everything would fit in her suitcase.
TO BE CONTINUED ON FRIDAY…
Hello Readers – now it’s your turn! Please cast your vote in the comments below for the type of ending you would like to see. Try to have your choice noted by 5PM CST.
Here are your ending possibilities this week:
I look forward to writing how the story will end! Here’s hoping you enjoy it!
Ailsa slowly woke up after a solid night’s sleep, her wide yawn shaking off the remnants of sweet dreams. With the bed being so comfortable, she debated for just a moment whether to snooze further or push through the usual fuzziness upon wakening. Her sense of adventure determined her next step as she threw her legs over the edge of the bed.
After a quick shower, she quickly packed all of her things in her suitcase and headed downstairs to check out. She asked the concierge to hold her suitcase as she would be sight-seeing this morning and into the afternoon. He gave her a claim stub for her bag, and off she went.
Ailsa had decided to forgo walking to both places because it would take away almost an hour and a half from her excursion. The Paris Metro would be perfect for getting to and from, and who didn’t love taking public transportation? Especially when it was so modern and inexpensive. She wasn’t willing to cut corners on other comforts as she’d dropped a pretty penny on the five-star hotel and their equally rated restaurant, but transportation, yes.
Her first stop this beautiful morning would be to take in the exquisite exhibits at the Louvre museum. She especially looked forward to seeing Leonardo Da Vinci’s – Mona Lisa – and Venus de Milo’s statue – Aphrodite. Ailsa was happy to check off two more bucket list places. But first, a Parisian coffee and a croissant before boarding the Metro.
She arrived at 9 AM on the dot, just as they opened the doors. Ailsa estimated she’d spend a couple of hours at the museum but ended up staying there for an hour longer. All the exhibits were fascinating, and she was happy to immerse herself more in-depth in the artwork and history. The time passed quickly, but she still had plenty of daylight to get to the Eiffel Tower.
Aisla looked forward to seeing the fantastic view of Paris from the tower. But just as excited to ingest a glorious lunch at the restaurant located 125 meters up from the ground. She decided to go straight there as it was right about Noon when she arrived. The Michelin-starred restaurant – Le Jules Verne – had three rooms offering a breathtaking view of the Champ-de-Mars, the Quai Branly, and the Trocadéro.
The waiter was happy to give her a window seat as requested. The view was so much more than she had expected! Oh, this trip sure was turning out to be one of the best she’d had to date, she thought to herself. The lunch, another exorbitant expenditure, was definitely worth it!
Ailsa took a deep breath as she looked out over Paris. A few thoughts crossed her mind about Monday, but she quickly pushed those back down into her subconscious, trying to focus only on the joy she was experiencing at that moment.
After lunch, she checked out the other attractions and exhibits, including more artwork and the tower’s history. Ailsa also perused the gift shop, where she spotted a limited edition rivet to add to her collection from her travels. Her trip was complete!
It was almost 3 PM, and she’d seen everything; it was time to go home. The Metro took her back to the hotel. She gave the concierge her claim ticket, promptly retrieving her bag. Aisla went into the lobby bathroom, opened a stall, and was careful not to lock the door. She quickly opened her little red suitcase, stepped into it, and said her goodbyes to Paris.
TO BE CONTINUED ON THURSDAY…
Hôtel Plaza Athénée – Paris, France
Undetected, the translucent bubble carrying the little red suitcase arrived at the hotel. Aisla unlatched the suitcase and stepped out into the lobby. This ingenious device teleported easily and without any disturbance in the new surroundings what-so-ever. It always left her astounded as none of the people in the area seemed to notice she’d just suddenly appeared. It was as if she’d arrived like every other tourist checking in.
Closing the suitcase and smoothing down her shirt and pants, Ailsa walked towards the reception area and checked in with the front desk. She smiled at the attendant and put down her suitcase. “Bonjour, Monsieur, Parlez-vous Anglais?”
“Yes, Madame. I speak English,” the man behind the desk said, smiling and nodding.
“Oh, wonderful! Thank you for making it easier for me. I’m still learning the language.”
“Are you checking in today?”
“Yes, please. Ailsa Craig.”
“Oh, like the island in Scotland?”
Ailsa flashed a broad but surprised smile. “Yes! Most people don’t know that! My parents decided to name me that as I was conceived on that island when they were on holiday.”
“Ah, that must have been before they closed it?”
Nodding in agreement, she said, “They’d heard it was going to be closed to visitors soon and wanted to visit the sights before it was too late. Mom and Dad packed a picnic lunch, brought some wine, hung out at the old castle, and good times transported them into each other’s arms!” Ailsa laughed, telling the story she’d heard so often before as sweetly as possible.
The attendant laughed with her and, with a wink, said, “Well, it sounds like they had an enchanting time and brought home a wonderful keepsake!”
“As per your instructions, we have a table reserved for you tonight in the restaurant at 6:30 this evening. Here is your key. You will be staying in Room 304. Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“Please, could you tell me what time the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower open to the public? Also, do you have a transit map for the Paris Metro?”
“Yes, of course. Here’s the map, and the sights are both open at 9 AM.”
“Wonderful! I thank you so much for the information! Au revoir”
“Enjoy your stay, Ms. Craig!”
Aisla turned and headed towards the elevator. The door opened just as she arrived to ring the bell for one. She pressed the third-floor button and looked forward to getting settled in the room. A big, deep breath and a long sigh out escaped her throat. She was beginning to relax now.
After a luxurious bubble bath, she showered off all the soap and wrapped herself in a plush white towel. Aisla fixed her make-up, blew dry her hair, and brushed it all into place. The cute black dress laid out on the bed, just waiting to be stepped into. After a small spritz of hairspray, then checking herself out in the mirror, she decided she liked what she saw. Her hunger beckoned, though; it was time to eat.
Opening the door of her room, Aisla couldn’t help but say, “Hello, Paris! Are you ready for me?”
TO BE CONTINUED ON WEDNESDAY…