As Writeious Books has recently announced, the Shiloh’s Pool ebook series has just been released. The first in a multi-book, multi-volume series, Against the Tide: Book One is the first ebook of the journey.
We are celebrating this release with a promotion through December by selling the ebook for just 99 cents! You can preview a sample chapter below. We hope you enjoy Shiloh’s Pool: Against the Tide: Book One. Let us know what you think.
By Jori Sams
ife in the white-washed village that clung to the side of the Alpujarra Mountains had lost its romance. In recent years, many of Shiloh’s neighbors had died. Except Crazy Lewis, who looked much older than he was. Most were too aged to straddle over the uneven stones that made up the path weaving up and down the tiny Andalucian pueblo. This forced them to relocate to the North to be near their children. Some went to Madrid or Barcelona, others to the South of France where the money was.
It was during the crisis. Shiloh had to kiss her husband good-bye for another winter as he headed to England to work. She wasn’t alone. Shiloh would need both hands to count the wives she knew in similar situations.
If only Shiloh had been well. Able to sleep and breathe. It was arthritis that took her from England and arthritis that would keep her away for long stays. Life in her new country had healed one ailment, but brought on another, leaving her to feel abandoned. Even after all her years of suffering with asthma, it had never come to mind that renovating a 400-year old home would stir things up. Old plaster. Dust. Ancient chestnut beams that had blackened with age. There was the campo, too, that strung out a good distance to the north of her little townhouse that sat at the far end of the pueblo, the last in a row of four.
Her allergies, along with the altitude, the old house, and the wood-burning stove set her off on a downward spiral. The worst culprit of all the irritants, though, was the black mold and mildew in the home. It was common knowledge to the Spanish natives that this was a recurring problem. The building standards were far inferior to those in Northern Europe. Houses were never damp-proofed, especially not 400-year old houses. Being foreigners, even as much as they had read up on Spain before they bought the old ruin, they had no idea about such things and could not have prepared themselves for the seven years that followed.
Shiloh and Jack were on the fast track to learning that Spain took no prisoners. While that little nook where they lived in Iberia could boast to have the best climate in Europe, that claim was only good for the air outside. Inside the homes was a completely different story.
To make matters worse, once the housing market crashed in, they had to resort to plan “B”, as it was obvious they would not be able to make a living in property development on their small budget, with no one buying. Through a friend of a friend, they took up residence at a newly developed resort on the coast. Well, almost developed. That was where they came in. Jack was going to help Robredo, a Spanish native, finish his small, quaint resort and Shiloh, well, Shiloh was going to help Robredo market it.
Robredo appeared nice enough. Shiloh, who was a good judge of character, wasn’t so sure she was sold on the misses, Andrea. She seemed rude and edgy. And a bit lazy, to be precise. She didn’t like to cook. She didn’t like to clean. She wasn’t creative. Do not ask her to garden or bake, or really anything. Admittedly, she would profess that she was quite boring. All she liked to do was watch movies.
It came to Shiloh’s attention, after being around Andrea for a couple of weeks, that quite possibly Andrea came from money and probably had servants while growing up. It also came to Shiloh’s attention, not long after that had moved into the large, three bedroom, poor built property manager’s house, that there was only one important person out of the four of them: Robredo. There was no convincing Jack, though. Jack was committed. In his world, the number one priority in life was the boss. Please him first. Then others. And lastly, Shiloh. This was a sure area of contention and one that built a large wall of resentment between the two.
That, and the fact that Jack was the type to bury his head deep, and deeper, if need be.
To spare the reader the unnecessary and grim tale of the first fourteen weeks (for that is another story in itself, one to be told later), it must be noted, for the sake of coming to know our main character, Shiloh, that she packed her bags and headed back up the mountain to her home in the charming, old village. Jack did not blame her for leaving, but he was determined to stick it out. Shiloh never pressured him to follow her, though she hoped he had the senses to; she knew that making demands would only lead to further resentment on his part. There was already enough flowing out his mouth stemming from the guilt he carried for leaving his three children between Oxford and Belfast. The oldest was on her own, the middle child, the oldest son, refused to relocate to Spain and sought a room in the town they had been living in, and the youngest was with his mother in Belfast.
Jack hadn’t been the same since leaving England; Shiloh knew that deep down he blamed her for his guilt, rightly so or otherwise. She also had the keen insight to see that they were never going to get paid for their work at the resort, at least not for years. Juggling the emotions, making the necessary adjustments that arise from major changes in life such as a new country, a new culture, a new language, a new home, a new family without a support system, was extremely stressful.
And then the big rains let loose from the heavens with all fury. In three weeks four years’ worth had fallen. Roads were collapsing. There were landslides all over. The earth was shifting.
The result from all the damp and moisture in the property manager’s house where they had been put up in on the resort grounds was fungus, mold and every kind of mildew, including mushrooms descending from the wooden ceiling in one of the guest bedrooms. The two had sacrificed a lot by going to work with Robredo. They would not see any money until it started pouring in. And Shiloh could discern it was years, if ever, from happening.
Worse than the rain and the mushrooms was the lack of appreciation the couple received from their boss. And his wife was not very forthcoming with thanks, either. Andrea was less than kind to Shiloh, almost as if she was threatened by her.
Just to give you an idea, one day she came over steaming, and burst through the front door. The two houses sat side-by-side with only a few feet between them. Demanding to know where her wine opener and her pizza knife were, she fingered through the silverware drawer to find them. Upon success, sweeping them up in a hurry, she turned her nose up to Shiloh. “Huh! You have my wine bottle opener and my pizza knife. If you want a pizza knife, buy your own. This is mine!” And off she stomped without making any further eye contact with Shiloh.
To be fair, Shiloh had not even known they were there; it was Jack who drank wine and ate pizza. It was he who did not return the borrowed items. Shiloh kept her distance from Andrea ever after. And when the rains came, and the mushrooms, along with all the ill treatment and lack of gratitude shown her, she left. Jack came up to see her on the weekends. There she sat in that cold, little village away from all civilization without a car, without any family, without friends.
It would be nearly a year before her husband reached his breaking point; Shiloh waited, and waited, and waited.
After that episode, Jack was fed up with standing knee-high in cement and the following winter he left his home and his wife behind to take up contract work for the season at his old firm, making racing cars for Motorsport. But he had to go alone; Shiloh simply could not live in England due her arthritis. This was what drove them from England to begin with. The pain was debilitating, so bad, in fact, that Shiloh had lost the use of her right arm. But no one in Jack’s world seemed to notice, or to care. They were so thrilled, as they should have been, that he was returning home to them for the winter. Whether Shiloh accompanied him or not was of no consequence.
In fact, when his parents, former missionaries in Uganda, had learned the two were looking for properties in Spain, they called them over to their house for a meeting. Shiloh would never forget it. The parents sat properly in their high-back seats at one end of the long room. At the other end sat Jack and his wife on the settee.
Even before any questions came, it all felt very awkward. The older ones had their hands tented and were playing the role of ascendancy. The American stared at them with that familiar foreboding sense that overtook her in their presence. The interrogation, the harangue, began.
To spare the reader the frustration of their boring words, Shiloh was told that when she married Jack, she married his children; it was of no use to abandon them and run off to Spain. The two had a responsibility, and that was in England. In the back of Shiloh’s mind came the question her father asked her some months before, “While you are so busy trying to please Jack and his whole family there, who is taking care of you?” It burned in her mind. And it was with all certainty that Shiloh knew she had the right to take care of her own needs for once, and she needed to leave England. Even if Jack’s parents thought less of her than they already did.
Immediately after their departure to their new homeland, about a year after the aforementioned summons, Jack’s mother was in bed for seven weeks from depression for missing her son. The news came as a surprise to both Jack and Shiloh for two reasons. One, because his mother had scarcely a nurturing bone in her; she had feelings, after all. Two, because early in Jack’s parents’ marriage they abandoned their own homeland for Africa. How could they hold uprooting to Spain any different? They defending their thinking by responding that they had been called to do the Lord’s work in Africa, assuming the Lord hadn’t called Jack and Shiloh to Spain.
The guilt from the relocation had been spilling over Jack by the gallons. He could only blame Shiloh for his misery. The fact that she couldn’t live in the house he built made matters worse. Unemployment had surpassed 25% in Spain. Any miraculous job that could possibly be available most likely wouldn’t interest Jack or pay very well. It was easier just to take work back in England.
Four winters after Jack had begun returning to his old firm for contract work through the season, Shiloh was numb. Was it regret steaming her mind making her sight cloudy? She sat quietly on the bus that made its way slowly through town, city and countryside on its course to Marbella. Shiloh had been there before, and was imagining the surroundings along the coast in the upscale communities that surrounded it. Puerto Banús. Sotogrande. She tried to calm herself. To convince herself she and Jack were fitted for the job she was seeking, and worthy of it, to serve diplomats, lords and the filthy rich. What would the house look like? What about the man she was going to meet, who was going to interview her? Would he be kind? Humble?
As she looked out the windowpane beyond her reflection and the sights rolling through from the other side, she wandered back in time, far beyond Spain, to her childhood.
How did she make her way so far from home? What brought her to that place in time as she sat there? Just thinking about it made her shiver.
Was she blessed or was she cursed?
She had advocates on both sides. Some revered her; some feared her. Whatever the case, she was not considered normal by anyone. In that moment, reviewing those two lists was not even on her mind. All she had were thoughts of her early childhood as she labored her way from past to present on the long, dusty trail.
If she didn’t have her sister, Emma, to relive her memories, she might not think they were real. Once or twice a year they had long talks on Skype filled with thoughts and events that would bring even the coldest heart to tears. Usually a long pause would come at the end of the call before they said their good-byes.
Shiloh thought of the only house she lived in until she married. The only garden that her little feet graced, where she played until sundown. The house that her parents built with the breezeway and sandbox, the pool she swam in as a toddler. The maple canopy bed she coveted in her sister’s bedroom with white and pink lace spilling all around.
Downstairs in the basement there was a long table with an enormous Hotwheels track. It was she and Emma’s favorite toy. Just thinking about the loss of it brought a pain to her chest and made her close her eyes. Was it to try and escape the memory or to search for it? Perhaps to look upon that play set as best she could remember, to take one more glimpse of it?
Her thoughts and the path of pain led her upstairs to a stark house with naked walls. Every picture removed. Not one piece of furniture remaining. She sat on one side of her mother, with Emma on the other side, each cradling her, weeping bitterly. It was the end of life in that upscale part of town. It was the end of the family.
As they lay broken, the two sisters could see their father outside in the car waiting for them through the giant window in the front room. It was time to tarry no further but to make their way out of that place. What was going on? What did her mother mean they weren’t going to live with their father anymore? Was it possible?
Where was he going? Who was going to kick the ball to them and chase them in the garden? Shiloh was trying to process it all as she got in the black, Toyota sedan. So many questions. Now wasn’t the time for speaking. There was only silence. Long, dark silence that brought a gloom she had never tasted before.
It was bitter.
No one said a word. Was Emma grasping it better? Did she have the same questions?
Shiloh wanted desperately to know. Her eyes were round and big as she put her fingers onto the window as if she could touch what was outside. The neighborhoods they were passing through were unfamiliar. They seemed unclean. Unattended. Uncared for. And the people in them.
Why did the car suddenly stop? Why were her parents getting out? Wasn’t that the moving van that left their house now sitting in the same parking lot they had just entered?
Shiloh gulped in horror as she saw her father follow a scary looking man down a long, narrow sidewalk and hand a key to him. Her father stepped up two steps and opened the door. There were around ten units lining the row of townhouses and another ten directly across. Theirs sat in the middle.
Their father held the door open while Emma entered first and Shiloh came along with her mother grasping her hand firmly. Then came that awful moment. Her father stood with sad eyes, the tears now coming.
“I am leaving, girls,” he said lowly. His eyes were brown, almost black, and while they were generally full of kindness, they had only held sorrow as of late.
Shiloh looked up at her mother quickly. She was so beautiful. The suburbs of Chicago were no place for her. She belonged in Hollywood. All of Shiloh’s life, no one ever matched her mother’s style. Her father constantly reminded her, too, that he was disappointed she didn’t have her mother’s class.
No. Shiloh was an artist. Full of adventure. She was petite. Fragile. With eyes that flickered and almost appeared lavender, framed with coal eyelashes and hair to match that was always spilling over her face.
“Where are you going, daddy?” his daughters sadly asked.
“To stay with my parents until I find a job and a place of my own.”
“A job?” questioned Shiloh. He already had a job. He was the most successful nightclub owner on the Fox River.
“Shut up, Shiloh!” Emma tried to say quietly, but was unable to cap her annoyance.
Her father looked down in shame. It wouldn’t be for years that she would learn her mother spent all his money, didn’t pay any bills and that is the reason they lost the house. And his business. That was the straw that broke the marriage. Rafa couldn’t look at Sophia anymore without contention or a deep loathing.
“Shiloh,” he firmly replied, “now isn’t the time. What you must decide is if you are going to stay with your mom or come with me.”
What? What was he saying? She looked at her mother strangely. “Come with me, darling,” her mother coaxed.
Shiloh looked at Emma for guidance. Emma withdrew, tipped her chin to her chest looking up with the biggest frown. She had rosy, puffy cheeks. They were drooping now, along with her big, blue eyes.
“I can take care of you, sweetheart,” assured her father.
“You are better with me,” said their mother.
Emma and Shiloh looked back and forth, listening to their parents. Who should they believe?
Shiloh could not remember how things came to pass. Without hesitation, though, Emma moved carefully to her father, taking refuge behind his leg and cleaving to it, peering out at her mother. Shiloh did the same.
She had no recollection of the words exchanged after that, if there was animosity or threats made. It all became a blur. As it happened, Shiloh and Emma moved in with their mother and were reduced to seeing their father once a week, on Sundays.
Life all but stopped. The sisters no longer had a bedroom to themselves. They had to share a room, as well as a bed. Emma snored, kicked the covers, tossed and turned. She wanted the bed to herself. That was what she was used to.
Shiloh was afraid to be in the dark on her own; she wanted the comfort of her sister. She wanted Emma to tell her stories and help her fall asleep. To giggle again. For her and Emma to take their pillows, place them under the door jam, and fall fast asleep like they used to whenever their parents entertained, to hear the hustle and bustle, the sound of clinging wine glasses amongst chatter.
Friday night was the worst. Cartoons were on at 6am, and Shiloh thought mornings were never going to arrive. Emma used to say, “If you roll your head on your pillow from side to side, morning comes faster!” Then she would demonstrate, soon falling asleep.
Shiloh came to a decision that what her sister suggested was impossible. She tried it time and again. When there was no success, she would keep rolling her head faster and faster, even to the point of it looking almost violent. Her frustration would build, as well as her agitation. The night dragged on relentlessly. Mornings never came faster. Shiloh could find no rest. It would be years before Shiloh stopped seeking her sister’s council…