Premonitions hints at past lives and common experiences, as it draws subtle connections between people on their personal quests for adventure, love and family. Amelia Rothman, a foreign-rights editor from New York, has a turbulent personal life. Adele Durand, a young French woman, marries the wrong man in 18th century revolutionary France. What do these two women have in common? Is it possible that an apprentice medicine-man in 15th century Africa and an ancient sword hold the answers to a question which transcends time itself? Premonitions in the second book in the Recognitions trilogy.
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About the Author
Daniela I. Norris, a former diplomat and political writer turned inspirational author and speaker, lost her twenty-year-old brother in a drowning accident in May 2010. That was when she embarked on a journey of learning and exploration and her writing shifted from political, to spiritual and inspirational. Daniela is the author of four books of non-fiction and short stories, and she lives with her family near Geneva, Switzerland.
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New York, 2018
It was not where I thought I'd find myself on my forty-fifth birthday. I imagined I'd be sitting on some tropical beach with a cold drink in my hand, maybe with a pink umbrella to complete the cliché. Perhaps gazing at a crystal-clear sea, with Don sitting next to me. But that's not how life turned out.
As it happened, I almost forgot it was my birthday, as I sat on the bleachers in a large sports center, watching a fencing competition.
It was nearly the end of the bout and I was trying to stop myself from biting my nails. I certainly wasn't going to shout random things in Jen's direction, like some of the other parents did, embarrassing their kids in the process. What did I know about fencing, anyway? I only knew that it changed my daughter's life. That from an awkward preteen she turned into a confident, kickass teenage girl wielding a sword with such confidence, as if she'd been doing it since the day she was born. It helped that she was a left-hander, just like Noah, her coach.
"This is actually a slight advantage, Mom," she explained to me a week ago. "Noah says that because there are not as many left-handed fencers, when I fence a right-handed person, they can often be caught off-guard. It's because they are not as used to fencing someone left-handed, the hits are kind of different. But you know what?" she asked with a wide smile.
"What?" I had to ask.
"I discovered that I can actually fence with both hands!" she said triumphantly, as if she'd just announced that she discovered a new planet.
That was Jen, always living life to the fullest. I knew that if she continued like that, she was highly likely to get where she wanted in life — wherever that may be.
Now Jen was in the lead with 13 touches — the other fencer had only 11, but the bout was far from over. She still had two points to go if she were to win, and those two points were far from certain. Her opponent was a thin, tall brunette, an excellent fencer. Her coach yelled instructions at her, which she surely could not hear under the fencing mask, in the heat of the bout. The coach wasn't even supposed to be talking to her during the match — only during the breaks, but the referee did not call him out on it.
On Jen's side of the strip Noah stood silently, brooding, his fists clenched. He was not the yelling type. I watched him bite his nails at the end of the strip, his face dark and serious.
I tried to push our last conversation to the back of my mind and focus on the bout. I knew he was doing his best to help Jen win, despite the fact her mother had just dumped him a couple of weeks before.
Well, I didn't really dump him as such — how could I? My heart ached for him, or because of him, I wasn't sure which one was more accurate. Even my body ached for his touch. But somehow, I still don't know exactly how it happened, Don made me feel obliged — for the sake of the children if nothing else — to give him another chance.
Don just freaked out on me when I came to get Tom and Jen from his place after my solo trip to France, over a month ago. I went to Paris for some work meetings with French publishers who were considering purchasing the translation rights to some of the books we were about to publish. Then I continued to the Pays de Gex, near Geneva, a place I'd never even heard of a few months back. The Pays de Gex was the backdrop of some strange visions I had — for lack of a better description. That was where I've seen something, several things, that could have perhaps been glimpses of past lives, or maybe they were just my overactive imagination. One way or another, these were experiences I had during hypnotherapy sessions following my personal difficulties, insomnia, and anxieties — all a result of my separation from Don after twenty years of marriage.
But Don didn't see it like that; he wouldn't understand even if I found the words and the courage to tell him that I went to see a hypnotherapist. And not only that I went to see a hypnotherapist — I also had experiences and dreams I could not explain. It started with visions of a French girl living in a small village at the foothills of the Jura Mountains in the eighteenth century. It continued with visions of an African medicine man trying to save the young men in his village from a destiny of slavery, sometime around the fifteenth century.
I had visions and dreams I could not completely understand; I could not explain them to myself, certainly not to Don. Don knew me as a down-to-earth person, not as someone who believed in past lives, spiritual visioning, dreams that had meaning or any of that kind of stuff.
Then he completely lost it.
"Who did you go with?" he asked in a harsh voice that very quickly turned sheepish when I stared at him disbelievingly.
"That's not really your business anymore," I said. "You've got Claudette, remember?"
He'd been shacked up with skinny Claudette for nearly a year now, ever since we separated.
"She is not the reason for our separation," he said, and I was shocked to notice tears in his eyes as he sat across from me in a small restaurant in the Village a couple of days later. I could not recall when I ever saw tears in his eyes — maybe right after the birth of our first baby, Tom — but that was over sixteen years ago now. And if he had had tears in his eyes on other occasions in the past, they certainly had nothing to do with me, or with our separation.
"We decided to separate for other reasons," he sniffled.
"But we said we'd just try it out," I reminded him. "We said we just needed some space from each other, to see how it feels. What was the rush to move in with Claudette?"
He looked at me with puppy eyes.
"I don't know," he said. "I guess it was a mistake."
My throat suddenly felt dry. I took a small sip from my wineglass.
"A big one," I said.
There was a long pause.
"Think about the kids," he said. "We owe it to them to try again."
Emotional blackmail was never a thing he'd done well, I thought.
"That's not fair," I said. "You didn't think about Tom and Jen when you started a new life, did you? They're kind of used to it now. And so am I."
He leaned forward across the table and took my hand in his.
"Amelia, I know I messed up. I really do. Will you please let me try and fix it?"
I don't know why, I have really no idea why, but I said, "Maybe."
And then, a couple of days later, I called Noah.
"We need to talk," I said. But he knew. Somehow, he already knew.
"Do you want to meet up or do you just want to say it on the phone?" he asked in that mechanical voice he had when he didn't quite know how he was supposed to react to something.
"Don asked me to give him another chance," I said.
He didn't say anything, but I could sense him holding his breath on the other end of the line.
"I am sorry," I said. "So sorry, but we kind of owe it to Jen and Tom to try. At least to try."
Noah still didn't speak.
"Say something," I begged. "Anything."
I felt a dull pain in the pit of my stomach, and then — not sure why — a small hope. A small hope that Noah would try to object, disagree, convince, argue. That he'd say, Don't go back to Don. Stay with me. We can make it work.
But he didn't say any of that.
"I hope you'll be happy," was all he said.
"Thank you," I said.
I put the phone down and wiped the tears off my cheeks.
Then I reached for a copy of my novel, Recognitions, its first draft now completed. Writing this novel had changed my life; changed the way I looked at most things.
Leafing through the pages with shaking fingers, I opened the manuscript on a random page, around a third of the way in. It was page 73.
My eyes stopped on the one-before-last paragraph. As the letters floated before me, I felt tears welling up again.
"Your schoolteacher does like you, he has come by recently several times, hasn't he? No man does that if he has no interest," said Madame Durand. "But he is timid and he does not speak his mind. I am not sure if this is a positive quality in a man, for he will lose many good things in life because of this character trait. Men who achieve things have to reach out and take them, have to be able to fight for them."
So, I thought to myself, perhaps he hasn't learned that yet.CHAPTER 2
Gex, France, 1776
Adele saw the schoolteacher in town once in a while, but never dared speak to him directly. She was rarely alone, and in any case the look he gave her — even from across the street — almost made her cry. In fact it did make her cry, but she managed to restrain herself until later and cry at home, when she had finished all of the day's duties and found a quiet corner to sit and reflect on her life choices. The life choices that did not seem real, did not even seem to be her own, but she knew that they were. After all, she had made them, hadn't she? It was foolish to blame her parents, or her friends, or anyone else who encouraged her to marry for status and for money.
Nonetheless, she felt robbed of the chance of living the kind of life she really wanted to live: a life of adventure, of travel, of doing something that mattered, of experiencing real love.
"Is everything all right?" asked Pierre one evening, and she just nodded. Everything wasn't all right; she had seen the schoolteacher in town that morning and did not dare speak to him. He looked sad to see her, sad but proud. He was not a man to complain, he was not one to seek revenge for hurt pride, and she knew that much. But she so wanted to cross the street, take his hand, tell him she was sorry.
She was indeed sorry — sorry for failing him, sorry for making her choice for the wrong reason, sorry she could not love him like he deserved to be loved. But, of course, she could not say that — not to him, certainly not to her husband Pierre, not even to herself.
She had two small children now, and they kept her busy. There was also the house to look after — even with two maids, there was much to do. And so, she put on a brave face and tried to get on with life.
Their house was bigger than her parents' home and was not far from the Bertrand family residence, in the center of Gex. There was a girl who did the cleaning and most of the cooking, and a nanny who came to help with the children every morning. This was more than Adele's mother ever had. But Pierre would not let Adele come and work at the store despite her frequent requests.
"It would be nice to see some people now and then," she said. "You see people all the time," he said. "You see the children, and you see my mother, and your parents, don't you? I can take care of the store."
She had the distinct impression that he was trying to keep her from the world, tucked away in their comfortable home, which now often felt more like a prison. All her dreams of ballroom dances in Paris and adventures in London seemed more unattainable than ever. Pierre had not mentioned taking her to Paris since the day they were married, some six years back.
They had a carriage and a coachman — Pierre would not be seen walking around town like a peasant and never cared much for sitting on horseback himself — so she took the children to her parents' house every other day. There, she would sit with her mother and work on her embroidery for an hour or two — the same kind of embroidery she used to hate so much — while the children played in the garden.
"You seem so domesticated," said Anne Durand. "Aren't you happy to have some home help, now that you see what it is like to raise two children?"
"I feel like my life is over," said Adele.
Her mother stuck her needle in her own embroidery and raised her eyes to meet Adele's.
"Don't say that," she said. "That sounds ungrateful."
"Well, maybe I am ungrateful," said Adele.
Anne Durand sighed.
They both continued their work in silence, until the children ran in, demanding lunch.
"I am so hungry, maman," said Delphine. She was nearly four now, and expressed herself well. Her little brother, Yves, was only two and a half. Two children in four years was a demanding task, on Adele's body, and on her soul. She didn't move from her chair despite the little girl whining and pulling on her arm.
"Come, come," said Madame Durand.
She took the children to the kitchen and gave them lunch, leaving Adele to stare at her embroidery as if it would come to life or transform into a genie who'd grant her three wishes, if she looked at it long enough.
Adele could not say what was wrong, but she woke in the mornings with a heavy heart. Some mornings she did not even feel like getting out of bed. The truth was, she felt that the life she really wanted to live was different, but in what way she could, or would not, quite say. It had escaped her: both the meaning of her life, and life itself.
"She needs fresh air," said the doctor Pierre had called some weeks before. "She needs distraction, perhaps some more help with the children."
And so Pierre asked his own mother to take the children to her house more often, after the nanny who looked after them had left in the afternoons.
Adele could not really complain that the children were a burden on her. They were not — they were clever, perky children who liked to run around and explore. She just didn't have the energy to explore with them.
All she wanted to do most days was to stay in bed and read a book. But she could not be seen by the home help reading all morning, for those horrible women — who couldn't read them selves and saw it as a waste of time — would surely gossip about the lazy young Madame Bertrand, and that gossip would reach her mother-in-law who seemed constantly to be looking for faults in Adele's character. The older Madame Bertrand may even try to use Adele's reading of useless novels as proof that she, Adele, needed to be committed to some institution where they knew how to deal with women who did not know their place in the world. Adele thought she'd heard it whispered, some months back, when the older Madame Bertrand did not know Adele was not far from her, having just come in from the garden to fetch some gloves for Delphine.
"It's not easy to raise children," her own mother told her more than once. "But at least you are married to a man who can provide well for you and the children ..."
"Pierre doesn't care about the children and about me as much as he cares about his precious business," said Adele, not looking her mother in the eye.
Was it as obvious to her mother, as it was obvious to her that she was the one constantly looking for faults in her husband's character?
After all, her mother was right. Pierre was a good husband who provided well for her and their children. But it seemed that after the wedding and the birth of Delphine and then Yves, Pierre's enthusiasm for her had somewhat diminished. And he certainly forgot the promises he'd made to her before they were married. He thought Adele should be happy simply because she was married to him; that should be enough to keep any woman happy in his view, especially the daughter of a paysan.
"Perhaps you can try and do more to maintain his interest," suggested her friend Eugénie, when Adele dared mention these thoughts to her. But what did Eugénie know? She was now married to one of the local farmers, and they did not have children despite wanting them. It just didn't happen for them.
However, Eugénie was very much in love with her farmer Emil, who was a handsome and strong young man even if he was barely literate. It didn't seem to matter to Eugénie, who followed her husband around like a domesticated duck and doted on him when he came back from the fields in the late afternoons. "You are so fortunate," said Eugénie more than once. "You married so well."
But Adele could not help but wonder ... what if?
What if she hadn't listened to her mother, and had married Jules Badeau, the schoolteacher, instead of marrying Pierre Bertrand, the well-off merchant's son?
Rumors said that the schoolteacher, the same kind and gentle man that her mother claimed would not be able to provide her — Adele — with a comfortable life, was spending his time in important circles these days. He was now a regular guest at Voltaire's chateau in Ferney, and was even seen in Geneva once or twice together with Monsieur Voltaire!
"Monsieur Voltaire even sends his carriage for him," whispered their neighbor, Madame Montagne, during one of her afternoon visits when Adele sat staring at her embroidery, imagining she was somewhere else instead. "Monsieur Voltaire does not like his guests to have to walk all the way from Gex," added Madame Montagne knowingly, as if walking was a bad thing.
She and Pierre would get along just fine together, thought Adele, not without bitterness. She was confident that Jules Badeau, unless he changed significantly over the past six years, did not at all mind walking.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Premonitions"
Copyright © 2018 Daniela I. Norris.
Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
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