Sunday, November 5, 2017

Characters within the Birthrite-verse: Gail Carr Johnson

Today I am featuring another main character from the Birthrite-verse and this time it's Gail Carr Johnson.

Enjoy and enter the two raffles below (double your chances at winning but there is only one day left for the first)!


Gail Carr (or Gail Carr Johnson as she has become in Kindred (The Birthrite, #2) ) was born in Plains, New York in the summer of 1913 as the daughter of Alan Carr and Janina Carr (nee, Calabrese). Her father is of German/Scottish descent, and her mother Persian/Italian. Gail also has two older brothers, Lorenzo and Rory.
Gail spent much of her childhood in the town of her birth, having grown up playing with her two best friends, Linda Parker and Dorothy Blake. Out of the three girls, Gail is the most outspoken. She is not one to shy away from discussing politics, subjects like women’s issues, and just simply stating her opinion, especially if it’s on a topic she feels strongly about. She is the polar opposite from the more soft and high maintenance Linda and while she does share more common ground with Dorothy when it comes to their interests and stances on certain topics, Gail’s personality opposes Dorothy’s more reserved one. Her favorite colors are red and merlot (much of her attire, makeup, and room d├ęcor reflects the more bold colors).
During her junior year of high school, Gail started going with one of her classmates, Reginald Johnson, a handsome young man who shares much of her interests and opinions. Because of this, the two are very compatible with one another.
In Descent (The Birthrite, #1), Gail and Reginald seem to be the glue holding the group together while everything around them falls apart. They remain a source of solidarity until the very end, though shortly after the events of Descent, Reginald notices a change within the girl he loves. While he understands the reasons behind her shift in personality, he worries for her and worries for the future of their relationship, though that doesn’t stop him from proposing marriage on Valentine’s Day of 1932 (this happens in Made in Heaven: A Birthrite Series Short).

In Kindred, Reginald and Gail try their best at settling into married life, even maintaining communication with Dorothy’s cousin, Cletus. But life experience and marriage can sometimes change things, and Gail continues to spiral into a state where she is not herself at all…






CHAPTER 4
Pennsylvania Railroad Station in
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

June 22, 1933

Thursday Evening

1

The clock on top of a large, stone pillar just outside of the railroad station stated the time as five 'o' clock as the next train was pulling in. The locomotive came to a slow, grinding halt, waking Cletus from sleep.
His vision was hazy as he glanced out the window, seeing parts of the town called Wilkes-Barre. He closed the thick copy of Les Miserables in his lap before rising to collect his small suitcase.
As the other passengers filed off, the young man's attention was once again drawn toward the window. His eyes fell to a corner that was a short distance down from the train. He wrenched slightly, squinting when he saw a tall, dark figure that seemed to be staring at the train.
(staring right at the window that Cletus’s seat was next to)
Cletus’s blood froze as he could feel eyes boring into him. Disconcerting sensations crept out from his core and the figure seemed to go unnoticed by those passing it by on the sidewalk.
The young man attempted to place the figure’s identity, fearing that perhaps this was Gavril, but his efforts were blocked by another vision of Plains. He had a sudden sensation of floating through the town. A blurred halo framed his vision of the Colonial and Victorian homes lining the street. We could easily drive out there...
Such thoughts were seeping into every corner of his mind, beckoning, placing him into a more deeply lulled and hypnotized state…
“Are you all right?”
Like a splash of ice water, awareness hit him. The question that shook him from his trance was spoken by a rather pleasing voice.
Cletus averted his gaze from the window to find a rather attractive young lady gazing at him. Her eyes reflected concern…and slight flirtatiousness. The remaining sunlight filtering in through the windows gave her light brown hair a lovely sheen, and her deep blue eyes were set off by the blouse she wore.
Cletus inhaled. "Yeah...yeah I'm fine. Just a little tired from traveling. Thanks." He motioned for her to go on ahead of him. When she did, he took another glance out the window, jolting slightly upon seeing that the figure was gone. After taking a second to collect himself, he started down the aisle after her.
Upon reaching the door, the girl faced him again. "Can I ask where you're coming from?"
His heart pounded. "Dayton, Ohio."
"Oh, do you have family out here?"
"Uh, yeah. Friends, actually. And a distant cousin."
"You're visiting."
He nodded.
Rather awkward silence passed between the two as they stepped onto the stone walkway. As new passengers boarded the train, he tried ignoring her sideways glances at him.
"My name is Christina," she offered. "I'm actually from Delaware, but I'm moving because of a new job. I was recently hired as a hospital receptionist. I'm not too terribly thrilled about leaving my family behind, but I suppose we should all be grateful for any employment these days."
"Yeah, definitely.”
"I do have to stay in town overnight," she continued (obviously not willing to allow them to go their separate ways), "and then I board a train to New York. Plains, to be exact."
Cletus flinched upon hearing the town's name. A vision of the old Blake house on Muholland materialized before him, causing him to pause once more.
"Are you sure you're okay?" she asked, again returning him to the present.
"Oh, yeah...yeah. Just a bit of lag..."
She smiled. "Well, I 'm famished. Train food isn't exactly what I would call appetizing. Or suitable for human consumption."
He allowed her a slight grin. "You’re right about that."
Her sapphire eyes reflected a sort of coyness. "I was planning on getting something to eat. I hear there are a few good diners in these parts."
Cletus's stomach flipped as he regarded this young woman called Christina. While his ability to read people was not as strong as Dorothy's, he could easily see that this girl had hopes in him offering to come with her.
His blood raced as he knew that if his buddies, Patrick, Rob, and Grant, were here, they would be urging him to accept her invitation, calling him crazy if he didn't. And if one thought on it, there was no reason for him not to. This young woman was attractive and seemed to have a good head on her shoulders. I could invite her along with Reg, Gail, and I…or at least get the number to where she’s staying… But as it had been with other girls that briefly entered his life, he knew nothing would ever happen with Christina. Because Christina was not her.
(It's a blessing and a curse)
Finally, Cletus cleared his throat. "Well, good luck with everything. I'm sure you'll do well. My friends are waiting for me here so I gotta run and I have to make sure I phone my girlfriend before it gets too late. But it was nice meeting you, Christina."
He turned away, never looking back as he felt her crestfallen gaze. He also tried shaking away the foolish feeling he had over the excuse of phoning a girlfriend that did not exist.
Sure enough, not too far away, Reginald and Gail waited for him. Relief filled Cletus as he smiled and waved to his friends.
Reginald grinned. "We were starting to wonder if you backed out."
Cletus quickened his pace as he approached the couple and shook hands with Reginald. "Sorry. I dozed off on the train and it took me a little while to wake up."
"Yeah, well we actually did see you get off but didn't want to interrupt." Reginald winked. "Looked like you were making a new friend."
Cletus's eyes shifted nervously toward no place in particular. "Oh...that was nothing much. Just small talk." He anticipated telling them of the Gypsy girl at some point during this trip.
"Well in that case,” Gail said, “I can see even more family resemblance between you and Dorothy. I think you broke the poor girl's heart. How was the train ride?" She gave her girlfriend's cousin a brief hug.
"Long," Cletus replied. He parted from Gail and the three started toward the Johnsons' car. "Nothing but cows and fields as far as the eye could see."
Reginald laughed. "How exciting. No wonder you fell asleep."
“Yeah, not even Victor Hugo could keep me awake,” Cletus said grinning.
“That’s pretty bad,” Gail said.
Upon arriving at the car, Reginald opened the trunk for Cletus to set his suitcase and book in before going to get the passenger door for his wife.
As Cletus settled into the back seat, and Reginald and Gail in the front, a brief moment of melancholy crept among the three. It was especially evident when Reginald glanced back at Cletus through the rearview mirror. There was something in the other young man's eyes, and that same energy radiated from Gail.
In an instant, the moment was broken and Reginald started the car, pulling out of the station parking area and onto the road. The silence between the three was broken when the young man in the drivers’ seat asked, "How's life in Ohio?"
"Well, as I said in my last letter, I'm still working a lot," Cletus replied. "Trying to help mom and dad with expenses and such, along with saving up for my own car and place."
Reginald sighed. "I completely understand. It took me a good year to save up for the vehicle I have now. By the way, we tried making the couch as comfortable as possible. You're absolutely sure you don't want our room? It's still up for grabs."
"Oh, I'm positive. Thank you, though," Cletus replied. "The couch will be fine."
"Well, if you change your mind, let us know. As of this moment, we can only afford a one-bedroom apartment. Hopefully that will change, but with the economy being the way it is, we can only play it by ear."
"It gets especially interesting when our families come to visit," Gail added. "Someone always ends up on the floor."
"Yeah, and that someone is me," Reginald said dryly. "Of course we allow anyone visiting use of our bedroom. Gail gets the couch and I'm on the luxuriously comfortable floor."
"My man is a tough sheik," Gail said, leaning in to kiss her husband's cheek.
"And this tough sheik's back is always screaming at him the next morning," Reginald quipped.
Gail's dark eyes regarded Reginald, as if to say, and you know I always take care of that later.
Cletus watched the couple as images of the young Romany woman from his dreams entered. He thought of Christina back at the station, feeling guilt over dismissing her in such a way. He also nearly laughed out loud over telling her of a girlfriend that didn’t exist (at least not in the physical realm…). But leading her on wouldn't be right either. Somehow, some way soon, he and this Romani girl were supposed to meet. Just how, he was unsure, but eventually it would happen.
Cletus's thoughts were interrupted when Gail turned around in her seat.  "There are a couple more sights we'd like to show you while you're here," she said. "Also, we still attend Mass on Sundays if you would like to join us."
Cletus raised his eyebrows. "We? You mean you're taking the plunge and joining the fold, Reg?"
Reginald shrugged. "I'm considering it. Staying in touch with Father Louis has been a huge help, if you know what I mean."
Cletus did know.
In that moment, he saw Plains once again in his mind's eye. Visions of the library with the painted portrait of its founder, James Livingston, life-like and staring back at him. The scene shifted, and Cletus was shown his cousin's old, now vacant home before being taken to Gregory the Great Church. He could see Father Louis seated inside his chamber, reading over what appeared to be documents of great importance. Within seconds, the vision dissipated into the air and he could see Gail looking back at him, her brown eyes inquisitive.
Cletus nodded as if to reassure her that all was well. Of course, the three knew better, and Cletus found the wistful expression in her eyes rather disconcerting. She seemed to force it away, allowing her old brazen self to return.
"On the way to Tahatan's," she said, "we pass though Elmhurst. There is a beautiful set of Gothic buildings inhabited by an order of monks. Maybe we can stop and have a look tomorrow."
Cletus nodded. "I'd like that."
"I do think the architecture would be of great interest to you," Reginald added. "But in the meantime, who wants to grab a bite to eat?"
"I wouldn't mind," Gail replied.
"Me neither, "Cletus said. "I could definitely go for a burger."
Reginald grinned. "It's settled then."
Within a few minutes, the car pulled up beside Mildred's Diner where they had eaten during Cletus's last visit.
During their time inside the restaurant, the group discussed college, jobs, and other aspects of their lives not related to the events experienced two Novembers ago. All three chose to avoid what needed discussed in favor of a few sweet moments of normalcy.
Normalcy that they knew would not last.

2

It was close to midnight when Reginald and Gail retreated to their bedroom, once more offering their guest accommodations better than the couch. As before, Cletus politely declined and proceeded to make himself comfortable.
This isn't so bad, he thought, settling back and gazing toward the ceiling, recounting the evening’s events.
It was a little after seven ‘o’ clock when the three left the diner and arrived at the Johnsons’ apartment. They stayed in the sitting area for about four hours more, conversing into the night, touching briefly on what would be discussed at Tahatan's, though underlying dread over delving back into the devastating events was ever present. Now alone in the dark, Cletus decided to not dwell on such things for at least that time. This included the mysterious figure from the railroad station (which he also refrained from telling his two friends…at least for now, he told himself).
His eyes started adjusting and looked out to the moon hanging in the sky. He could hear noises on the street below and was reminded of how different this area was from his rural life in Ohio.
His mind started wandering and his eyes grew heavy. Suddenly he was drifting over a large field where two little boys, one with dark hair and the other fair, played. He had seen these two children several times in recent years after falling into sleep. The boys were running around with a ball and oblivious to the hooded figure standing at the edge of a distant forest. Beside the cloaked individual was a young man dressed in the nineteenth century attire of a peasant or slave.
As Cletus drew closer, he could see the young man's dark complexion and wavy black hair that reached the collar of his shirt. He felt a certain kinship, and - after getting close enough to see his features – knew who he was.
Nicolae... Cletus could place some physical resemblance between the Romany slave and Dorothy's friend Jimmy.
When he turned back toward the two little boys, they vanished before his eyes and the scene shifted from day into night. The field around him disappeared and Cletus found himself on a dark, deserted road. Up ahead was a sign. He ran toward it, the balmy wind blowing back his clothes and hair. His steps slowed as he felt the cold, rough pavement beneath his feet. The moon illuminated the street sign, seeming to specifically cast its glow for the young man to read the letters etched into the wood:
Hunters Highway
Above that sign, two connected arrows pointed in directions opposing one another. The top one read Stone Creek and the bottom, Pinewoods. Both towns where 25 miles from where he stood.
He gasped at the familiarity of the town names and felt a draw toward the latter. But when his eyes snapped open, he was back on the couch in the apartment.
He turned back over to face the window, and his insides jolted upon seeing a face appear just outside the glass pane. He sat up, only to have the shape vanish.
Cletus tried forming a rational explanation for what he saw, but it was a futile attempt. Chills enveloped his body as he glanced about the dark room. Faint whispers seeped in through the walls. Frozen to where he sat, he tried making out what was being said, but the words proved inaudible.
As his body gained mobility, he considered heading to Reginald and Gail's bedroom, but couldn't move quickly enough, as though he were fighting his way through quicksand.
Eventually, the whispers faded out and the air was overtaken by the distant sounds of a piano playing a familiar piece by the composer DeBussy.
The song to the moon...
To his relief, Cletus's movement became more fluid and he was able to rise from the couch. He flinched when his foot touched an icy wood floor.
His eyes darted about and breath hitched when he saw the property of the Fleming Orphanage surrounding him. The summer breeze turned into a crisp, autumn chill as the song flowed with the wind that carried it. Leaves fell from their branches, blanketing the ground, seeming to undulate with the notes being played.
He was compelled toward the woods, feeling Dorothy's presence and the grave danger she was in by being here. Confused and disoriented, he looked around, calling out to her, but she was nowhere in sight.
His voice was getting lost in the wind stirring up as it carried DeBussy's song. The woods and empty buildings of the former orphanage took on menacing shapes, as if they were alive and mocking him. Every fiber of his being wrenched when he heard a distant howling from somewhere in the woods. His breath grew rapid as his lungs took in the icy air. The song to the moon faded and the sound of someone humming another familiar tune took over.
 All the Pretty Little Horses...
Cletus tried moving in the direction of the hill, knowing that it would take him away from the property, but the wind increased in strength and invisible arms seemed to hold him back. He heard the howling again, only this time, it was much closer, sounding unlike any animal he knew of. A foul stench started crawling out from the buildings as the windows radiated a deep red glow.
(Like blood...)
The glow pulsed, spreading throughout the property as the stench of death and decomposition engulfed him. His body stiffened upon hearing a bloodthirsty growl closing in behind him.
He tried to run, but his feet were planted to the earth. He could sense it inching closer, crunching over the cold, drying leaves. The creature's rancid breath assaulted his nostrils before it let out a deafening roar. Then the creature pounced, pummeling the young man forward…

3

Friday morning

June 24

...Cletus was jarred awake, relieved to find himself back in Reginald and Gail's sitting area as early dawn filtered in through the window. He sat up, glancing about his surroundings and seeing that he was on the floor with the blanket tangled around him. His temples throbbed as he looked back toward the couch. Rising to stand, he untangled the blanket.
As he started toward the couch, he caught a glimpse at his feet, stopping short upon seeing traces of dirt caking his skin.
Blood raced in his ears as he tried coming up with an explanation for why this would be. Maybe Gail isn't a very good housekeeper... But a look around the small apartment suggested otherwise.
Cletus sat down, leaning back on the couch and running a hand through the dark strands of his hair. He attempted to decipher his dream, trying to hang onto the details, but most of it was fading from memory.
Frustrated, he folded up the blanket and placed it neatly over the pillow resting against the arm of the couch. Then with a final glance at the morning sunrise, he forced himself toward the washroom.

4

Cold water rained from the shower head, fully waking him from remaining remnants of his troubled slumber. Trying to maintain a sense of calm, Cletus hurried to finish showering, shut off the water, and started drying off. After wrapping the towel around his waist, he stepped over the tub rim and started to dress.
While buttoning his shirt, he heard someone exit Reginald and Gail's bedroom. Intent on allowing the other two access to the washroom as soon as possible, he glanced in the mirror once more to check his appearance. A rather unnatural glint in the glass caused him to take a step backward. In an instant, the small flash disappeared.
His heart pounded as he glanced around, trying to identify a possible light source. Chills rose on his arms upon the reminder of the room being windowless.
In a flash, the Fleming Orphanage appeared before him, an image accompanied by a sensation of floating. He found himself moving passed the main building toward another on the property until going through a front entrance. He passed by what looked to be a large dining area before being taken up four sets of dark staircases. Finally, he reached the fourth floor, and continued down the corridor. When he came to a stop, he was in front of a room with a certain set of numbers nailed into the door.
410...
The sound of knocking wrenched him, and the interior of the orphanage disappeared.
"Cletus?" Reginald's voice spoke from the other side of the washroom door.
"Yeah..." Cletus whirled around, struggling to keep his voice steady.
"Everything all right in there?"
"Yeah…yeah, I'm on my way out."
Drawing in a breath and steadying himself, Cletus opened the door to see the other young man standing in the small hallway, wearing a robe over his pajamas.
“Sorry,” Cletus stammered.
The left corner of Reginald's mouth quirked. "It's fine. I just didn't want to barge in. No need to make this visit awkward."
Gail emerged from the bedroom, wearing a red satin robe and holding a towel. "Did you guys want me to start coffee before I hop in the shower?" she asked.
Reginald kissed his wife's cheek. "I'll do that. You go ahead and get yourself ready."
Her dark eyes held her husband's light ones for a moment. Cletus could see the love that the two had for one another and while he tried to not stare, he couldn't help noticing something that seemed to be brewing below the surface.
Cletus looked away.
"Thank you, my love," Gail said, a hint of humor in her voice. She smiled at her friend’s cousin, moving passed him and retreating to the washroom.
Once she was inside, Reginald motioned for Cletus to follow him to the small kitchen. The former started making coffee, filling the apartment with the liquid's aroma.
Noticing that conflicted look once again in the light-haired man's eyes, Cletus blurted out, "Something eatin' you?"
Reginald's eyes widened, blinking rapidly before his features relaxed.
"I'm sorry," Cletus stammered. "I shouldn't have said anything."
Reginald held up a hand. "No, no, it's fine."
"Well...can I ask what's wrong?"
Reginald drew in a breath. "Actually, I probably should talk about it. I haven't discussed it with anyone and it is eating me up. I haven't even brought it up to Gail.” He paused. “Actually...that's not entirely true...we have discussed..."
"What?"
Reginald paused, regarding the other young man for a moment before replying, "Having a baby."
"Oh..."
Reginald dropped his voice. "I want us to."
Both young men were silent upon hearing the shower shut off.
"Really?" Cletus’s voice was just above a whisper. "Well that's wonderful."
 Reginald sighed and smiled slightly. The two young men remained silent as the washroom door opened. Gail's footsteps hurried toward the bedroom and the door shut.
After being certain that she was out of earshot, Cletus asked, "What's the problem?"
Reginald shifted, reflecting a sort of guilt. "Gail wants to wait a couple of years and I understand her reasons. She wants us to be in a better place financially. So far, we've been careful and always take necessary precautions to avoid..." He paused, the inner conflict increasing by the second. "She also wants more time using her aviators license...which, I admit, worries me."
"I thought you were happy for her."
"Oh I am, don't get me wrong. But that doesn't mean I don't have concerns. I mean, one small mishap and..." He swallowed, his eyes moving downward as his anguish over what could go wrong in a plane visibly heightened.
As Cletus watched the other young man, an image of the Romany girl flashed through every part of his being before fading into one of Jimmy and Linda. Jimmy was still heavily scarred from his time in Hell but continuing to make progress in his long recovery. He was seated beside Linda, just outside of a large, elegant, though rustic, building. Her head rested on his shoulder and his arms embraced her as the couple watched a small, dark-haired little girl toddling around in front of them.
As the image left, Cletus studied Reginald once more and said, "I'm sure you two will work something out."
Reginald sighed. "I know. Compromise, right? It comes with being married. Besides, if this is the most conflict she and I have had so far, I guess things are pretty good."
Cletus started to respond but stopped when he heard the bedroom door open. Seconds later, Gail entered the kitchen, dressed and made up.
She sauntered up behind her husband and playfully smacked his behind. "Your turn, sweetheart."
Reginald's troubled expression quickly transformed into a loving smile. "Thanks, baby." After one more sip of his coffee, he gave her temple a kiss. "When I'm done we can go to Mildred's and grab a bite. I know it ain't Chuck's but it's close enough."
Gail reached for the empty cup Reginald had left for her on the counter and poured some coffee. "Hey I'm fine with not having to cook today." She took a sip and grinned. "No offense, Cletus."
Cletus chuckled. "None taken. I like diner food once in a while."
"Well, I won’t be long," Reginald said, and headed to the washroom, but not without regarding his wife once more.
Gail's long lashes blinked rapidly over her dark eyes as she caught her husband's gaze. Once again, the mood seemed to take on a melancholy shift.
Cletus watched the couple for another moment. As the washroom door shut behind Reginald, he turned to face the coffee pot, trying to push back the unexplained dread churning within.


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