Excerpt from The Vanishing, pages 49-51:
“She lowered the cowl of her cloak and held out her hand to help him up. “Didn’t anyone ever teach you that it isn’t wise to sneak up on a Cantonese?” she asked.
Grabbing her hand, he said: “A Cantonese?” She pulled him smoothly to his feet with very little effort. He marveled at her strength, still goggling at her in amazement. She was so strong for someone so petite. Then he furrowed his brows in puzzlement. “You don’t look Cantonese,” he added. It was true. She didn’t. The Cantonese were dark of hair and skin. Their eyes were usually dark as well, although some did have lighter shades of brown, hazel, and even green, but they were never this bright, nor this blue, like the sky on a cloudless, summer day, and they were never accompanied with the fair skin and the blond hair like the young woman before him. Stop gawking at her! he told himself silently. You look like an idiot! Yet, who was she? And why did she seem so familiar?
“Yeah, I hear that all the time but I was born and raised there,” she replied. “It’s the truth. I grew up with my Grandfather, Sebastian, and my Grandmother, Naelli. I don’t remember my mother and know virtually nothing of the rest of my family …” As she spoke, a memory of when he was eleven years old flashed in his mind. They were in the wine cellar of the Pandretti Inn and Winery, playing a game. Of course, she had been cheating at the time, as she always did. She had just jumped out of an empty wine barrel and tagged him the ghost when he said …
“Chalice?” She cocked her head in surprise at hearing her name. “Your family owns the old Inn and Winery on Canton Run, right?” She nodded and he continued: “I thought you were one of the Lost Ones. I couldn’t tell with your hood up. Wow, you have really gotten a lot bigger since the last time I saw you …” He paused, wincing as he moved his shoulder and felt a sharp pang. “… and a lot stronger too,” he added, rubbing the sore spot, hunching over slightly, with a pained expression. Apparently, the knock she had given him bruised a little more than just his pride.
Her face softened. “I’m sorry for that,” she said, gesturing toward his shoulder. “I don’t know my own strength sometimes.”
He shrugged it off as if to tell her not to worry about it. “Well, I learned my lesson, didn’t I?” he said. “I’m never going to try that again.” It did hurt but he wasn’t going to let her know. He had to act tough, he told himself, on principle.
She eyed him curiously. “You say you’ve seen me. Have we met before?”
“You don’t remember?” he asked with raised eyebrows. He was puzzled that she didn’t remember something that was so clear to him. Nine years earlier, when they were children, he had spent three years in Canton with her and her grandparents. His parents had had to leave on a search mission and his brothers had gone to stay with the Corbins. There had been no room for Jeremiah there and as Sebastian Pandretti had been in town visiting at the time, it was, according to his father, the best solution for him. He suddenly remembered Canton and the games she and he played when they were young. It seemed as if it were almost yesterday. “Ghost-in-the-Graveyard,” he continued, “in the wine cellar of the Inn? You cheated all the time.” He laughed. “You really don’t remember?” Sighing, he finally said: “Ah well, you were pretty young then.”
She studied him for a moment and then, suddenly, her face lit up in recognition. “Oh my gosh, no, I do remember!” she exclaimed. “Jeremiah?!” she asked and he nodded. “Jeremiah Maehbeck! How could I have forgotten?!”
He smiled as she said the words and caught a twinkle of joy in her eye at seeing him again. Then he suddenly realized what had been missing in his life this whole time. After all these years, he finally understood the emptiness inside of him and realized what could fill it – the only thing that could fill it. It was her.”
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