” This story is a story about adventure. “
By Aissa Wise
It was miserably hot and sticky that afternoon, the August sun beating down as if trying burst open the Florida coast like a piñata. Sweat dribbling down her face, washing away any makeup she had left from the night before. Nona settled back onto her elbows into the warm fresh grass, closing her eyes and thinking about what to do next. She relaxed her neck, breathed deep taking in all the scents around her. Nonas elbows lost there grip as she fell softly into the grass. The August sun covering her like her mother’s afghan blanket she once loved. Unconsciousness claiming her as its own.
Nona grew up in a small village on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, Santa Isabel, where the sun was bright and the sound of the waves sung her to sleep every night. Her mother had moved them there to escape an unpleasant breakup with one of her boyfriends. Nona must have been three of four when they moved there, most memories of the United States were long buried, but one seemed to haunt her. She can remember a man, tall with dark hair, like hers. She didn’t know how, but she knew he was her father. They had made an ice cream stop some where in Texas, just the two of them. Nona remembers seeing the state license plate on the station wagon they had been in. She can remember the feeling all to well, the man was unhappy.
Her mother never talked about her past, and would become irritated when Nona would ask about the dark haired man. As if she was hiding from something. They had lived in a small upstairs apartment. Nonas window looked over the ocean, where she could climb through the window and swing her small body up to the roof. She would sit up there on warm afternoons after school, drinking hot tea her mother always made her. She would watch the fishing boats come in after a long day of work, wondering where they went all day. She wished she could fly off her roof like her parrot Lucille once did, in hopes of seeing the world.
Rain drops hit her face, jolting her awake. She jumped up and ran for the canopy of trees that lined a small creek. Breathless, Nona reached down cupping a handful of water and brought it to her rosy red lips. She looked at her watch, quarter to four. She reached into her bag, a bag her mother had gotten her before she had sent her away. She hadn’t seen her mother since she had forced her on that small unsteady passenger ferry headed for the tip of Florida a day after her nineteenth birthday. She pulled out a polaroid picture. A picture of a handsome young man with deep blue eyes that seemed to look right into her soul, and full lips that were turned into a small grin. She turned the picture around in her hands reading the back for the millionth time. Her mother had given her the picture right before she left home to board the ferry. She had told her daughter to find him and he would give her the answers she most yearned for. Nona had not a clue what she was about to embark on. The back of the picture had an address written in neat handwriting. Nona had spent days looking for the address with no luck, the park seemed like a good place to gather her thoughts.
Nona jerked her head to the right, trying to get a whiff of what caught her attention. The aroma came at her in clouds, as if excited that she finally caught it. Anxiously, she stuffed the picture back in the front pocket of her bag. Her mother once told her she could be the next Nancy Drew, she had taken that to heart back when she thought anything was possible. Nona stood for a quick minute taking it all in. The Sand Pine trees slowly dancing in the afternoon rain, the jungle gym in the distance which seemed oddly desolate, and the honking of swans far off in the distance. The rain had started to come down in sheets reminding Nona that she was not dressed properly. Something all of a sudden clamped down on her shoulder, grabbing her attention. Startled, she searched for her breath as she spun around peering into piercing blue eyes that seemed to look deep within.
He stood there looking at her, gazing her up and down. She couldn’t help but recognize his dark handsome eyes.
“Nona, I have something for you,” he said, handing her a manila envelope.
“Who are you?” Nona asked.
“No time for small talk, We must go, somewhere else, somewhere quiet so I can explain.” He grabbed Nonas hand, pulling her after him. Suddenly running along side him she realized who he was, the young man in the photograph. The photograph her mother had given her.
In the midst of the storm she wondered what was going on, one hand tightly enfolded in his, and the manila envelope in her free hand. They ran down the cobble path towards the parking lot where a small black sports car sat alone, waiting. Nona was never good at knowing what make and model a vehicle was, but she had a feeling this was one she had never been in.
They were speeding down some interstate that she did not know of, the rain seemed to struggle to keep up. Nona looked over at her company. He was tall, with wide shoulders. How does he fit in this tiny car? She thought. The car reminded her of Mary Poppins purse, it seemed small, but comfortable. He had long dark hair, set in a bun on top of his head. He wore the face of a man, mature and all knowing.
“What’s your name?” She asked.
“Jonas, my father and your mother work together.”
“How did you know who I was?” She asked.
He opened the visor and a photograph fell out onto his lap. A polaroid that looked like the one she had, but with a girl in the picture.
“That’s me!” Nona shouted in surprise.
“You should open the envelope.” Jonas relied.
Nona had forgotten about the envelope until know. Her hands shook, not knowing what to expect. She broke the seal and pulled out the insides. She pulled out first a smaller envelope with her name on it, in her mother’s handwriting. The same neat writing on the back of Jonas’s picture. Nona open the letter:
My sweet Nona,
I must start by apologizing, you must be scared and confused. I’m sure you hate me. Please, let me explain. When you were a little girl, I did something. Something that had to be done, but yet, this something in the end made us run. You see, your father whom I never told you about, was a bad man. He was a selfish man, always hurting me and you. He was filthy rich. I didn’t know this until we were married. I never found out where all the money came from. One night when you were fast asleep, I ended him. You mustn’t hate me for this. I was thinking only of your safety. Trust me, he no longer could hurt you. That night his men came after me, men I thought I could trust. They were money hungry savages willing to kill us. We escaped with the help of Jonas’s father. The only man I should’ve trusted. You must trust Jonas, he is here to help you. We escaped that night with what I thought just our lives, but the money landed in our laps. You must take it. Do what you want with it, be happy but watch your back, with this money comes great responsibility. It’s yours.
I love you, like the moon loves its waves.
Tears started to fall onto the letter, smearing some of the words. She sat there shaking, not knowing what to do next. Jonas handed her a tissue. She reached into the envelope grabbing the next piece of paper. A French bank deposit receipt, for 3.3 million dollars.
“Holy shit, this isn’t real,” Nona whispered.
“Its all true, Nona,” Jonas reassured.
“Where is my mother, is she alive?”
“Yes, from what I know. She’ll find us” he replied confidently.
They kept driving in silence for what seemed like hours. She went through the rest of the envelope, there were some random pictures of her and her mother, her mother and a man who looked like an older Jonas, and one of a little boy and girl which she learned was the two of them long ago. There was also a new passport with her picture on it. Nona then realized she had no idea where he was taking her.
“Where are we going?” Nona asked.
“We’re going to the airport, we need to get far from here. How does Paris sound?” He looked at her with a smile playing on his lips
“Who are we running from?” she wondered aloud.
“There are men who are looking for you, they found you and your mother in Santa Isabel, that is why your mother sent you my way. Your mother left soon after you did.” He explained.
“Are you hungry?” He asked after a few moments of silence.
“Starving” Nona replied, realizing she couldn’t remember the last time she had had something to eat. Her stomach replied with a growl as well.
“Sounds like it” Jonas laughed while pulling off the interstate.
They sat at a corner table in a small quiet cafe. The soft indie music playing above eased her nerves. The pastrami sandwich and double espresso she had ordered tasted like heaven in her mouth after all that had happened in the last couple hours. She studied him, looking for anything that raised a red flag. He had a trusting element about him and she felt safe with him, Nona couldn’t help but be drawn to him. She could feel her face warm when he looked up from his espresso, meeting her eyes. I didn’t help that he was beautiful.
“What is the address to, the address on the back of the picture?” she asked him, trying to cover up her childish blush.
“It was the place where we were to meet, but you never showed up. So I had to do a little searching. You were hard to find.” He said looking at her, with a hint of relief in his eyes.
“I promised your mother that I would find you, protect you, and answer any questions you had,” he said.
“I couldn’t find the place, I gave up a couple days ago” She explained.
Nona couldn’t help but think about her father at that moment. Was he the man in her memories? Tall, dark hair and eyes, like her?
“Do you know where the money came from? She asked Jonas.
“My father, who is living in New York currently, did his homework. You see my father and your father were best friends and business partners. They would buy abandoned apartment complexes, turn them around and sell them for millions. The business flourished, but your father was somehow making more money. Under the table my father thought. About five years after his death, my father figured it out. It seemed your father had an alias, under the name of Jones Bradley. He played poker, or rather, played all his opponents. The poker world even had a bounty for his head. They dropped it when my father informed them of his death and made them believe all the money was gone. Your father was a good man, until he started feeling what money could do to him. You and your mother were just in the way, my father saw it to. Your father was poison to your family, he was blind to what he had.”
“So let me understand this, the money, my money, came from cheated poker games? She asked.
“Partially, at this point we don’t know exactly how the money fell into your mother’s hands. It seems some of it is from our fathers remodeling business and some from your father’s poker table” Jonas replied.
Nona let it sink in, the uneasiness in her gut withered. She made herself eat the rest of her sandwich not knowing when she’d have time to eat again. She gulped down the rest of her espresso and pushed her chair back as she stood.
“What’s next?” He asked
“I hear Paris is lovely this time of year” she replied with a twinkle in her eye.
16 hours later, and well rested from sleeping through the entire flight to Paris, Nona walked out of the Charles de Gaulle Airport with Jonas by her side. The night sky, full of promise greeted them like old friends. A parisien taxi dropped them off outside the Hotel Plaza Athenee, the moon couldn’t compare to the beauty of the city they were in. Romance and elegance gushed from everywhere Nona looked. They were welcomed at the front entrance of the hotel by the doorman, he asked them a question in French. Nona looked at Jonas in panic, realizing she probably should’ve brushed up on her French on the flight over. Much to Nonas surprise, Jonas replied to the man in flawless French. The doorman pointed them in direction, Jonas grabbed Nonas hand and entered the building. The inside of the hotel was bright and busy with people, even in the middle of the night. Jonas led Nona to the front desk where a young woman helped them get a room. Jonas led her to their room on the top floor, he unlocked the door with a long curly key and pushed it open, Nona gasped as she took it all in. The room looked like it was taken out of a fairy tale, a large crystal chandelier hung from the high ceiling over the top of a four poster bed with purple silk linens that looked fit enough for Cinderella. There was a small sitting area off to the right where a vase of fresh flowers sat. The flowers gave off a sweet aroma, the aroma of new beginnings.
“Will this do?” Jonas asked, nervously.
“I think I will manage,” She answered, with a grin flirting on her lips.
She turned to him and wrapped her arms around his safe body.
“Thank you” she whispered.
“Tomorrow, I have a surprise for you” Jonas replied.
“What more could you do for me, you’ve helped me so much” she answered.
“Someone is here in the city waiting for you”
“Mother.” She thought, remembering Jonas telling her that her mother would find them.
She wandered over to the large window that overlooked the city, she could see the Eiffel Tower, lit up in the distance. The feelings she carried in her belly were exhausting. It had been a couple months since she’d seen her mother. She’d missed her so much, even her constant nagging about keeping the house clean or to finish her homework. Nona had gotten answers from Jonas, but she wanted to hear them from her mother.
Nona spent the night in Jonas’s arms, she felt safe and warm for the first time in months.s The next morning the two of them bright eyed, walked down the sidewalk past markets selling fresh meats and flowers. They reached a small cafe, set back and out of the way from the busy Paris morning. Jonas led the way holding the door open for her. She walked in, smelling the fresh bread and rich coffee. Suddenly familiar arms pulled her into hug. She knew it was her mother, the smell of her dark hair in her face brought fresh tears. They pulled away after a long moment, looking into each others eyes. Her mother looked tired, but her warm smile told Nona everything was going to be okay. The two of them sat and talked over raspberry scones and coffee while Jonas had gone down the road to gather some groceries and fresh clothes for them. Her mother explaining everything she could. About her father, Jonas, and the money.
The next few days were heaven for Nona. She spent her time with Jonas and her mother. Jonas knew the city better than any French tour guide. She grew very fond of him and the city in those few days. Nona’s mother soon left for New York to find Jonas’s father, promising to return to Paris. With some of the money Nona purchased a small run-down coffee shop that looked over The Seine, the waterway that flowed through Paris. After a few weeks of remodeling and with the help from Jonas, she was able to open the doors of Yeux Bleus, Café and Bistro. Inspired by Jonas’s deep blue eyes, always keeping her safe. Between the fresh coffee and the affection between Nona and Jonas, They were a hit in Paris. The city couldn’t get enough of them.