The Green Man Series | Volume 3
Set in the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay, Sylvia Ash continues her romance with the handsome scientist, Owen Anderson. A murder in their neighborhood rocks their world. Danger lurks in their peaceful surroundings of Bayside and on their first sailing adventure.
Can the Green Man save Sylvia this time?
Paperback, September 2015, ISBN: 978-1517255121
The Blossoming: An Excerpt
Nothing will catch you.
Nothing will let you go.
We call it blossoming—
The spirit breaks from you and you remain.
–Jorie Graham “Tennessee June”
It was early summer. The cool, early, June night gave way to a warm day as the sun rose lazily in the bright Eastern sky. A gentle breeze ruffled the crisp, white curtains so that Sylvia could see the sun glinting on the blue-gray water of the bay while the curtains billowed like sails in the early, morning breeze. The air was just on the edge of coolness. The slight breeze felt delicious to Sylvia’s toes when she poked them out from under the covers on the bed. Every fiber of Sylvia’s being shouted, ‘Get up! Get up! It’s a gorgeous day!’ Every fiber of her body wanted her to get up and greet the burgeoning day, along with a large, dark-eyed poodle that sat anxiously beside the bed. Percy, a large, white, standard poodle was awake too. His large, dark, doggy eyes pleaded with her to take him outside while his cold nose nudged her hand. She was grateful he didn’t whine and wake up Owen, who was snoring lightly beside her.
Sylvia stretched carefully and began to ease slowly out of bed. She was very careful not to wake Owen’s sleeping form beside her. He always touched her in his sleep with a hand, a finger or the brush of a foot against her leg and she had to pull away from him slowly and gently so that she didn’t wake him. She paused for a moment as her one foot touched the floor and glanced back at Owen. He was still breathing deeply and steadily. Apparently her exit from the bed did not disturb his slumber. She put her other foot on the floor and stood up, steadying herself by touching the furry head of the large, white poodle next to her.
“Okay, Percy,” she whispered as she first patted and then bent to give him a kiss on his soft curly head.
Percy raced down the stairs and waited anxiously by the door until she appeared dressed and ready for his walk. As soon as he saw her he danced in excited circles, holding the leash in his mouth. He had a habit of pulling his leash from the hook by the door when he wanted to go for a walk. Sylvia laughed as quietly as she could, told Percy in a stage whisper to sit, and hooked the leash onto his collar before going outside to take a large breath of the fresh morning air. The sun glinted off the western shore of the bay, blinking brightly off the windows of homes on the far shoreline. They twinkled in the sunlight. She loved living at Bayside. She loved life on this fresh, summer morning.
As Sylvia walked Percy, she remembered for the millionth time, sweet memories of her friend Gwen’s wedding. It was only a month ago and the memories were a lovely, haunting daydream. Sylvia had been physically and emotionally spent from the kidnapping by her former neighbor, Tony, and the two men hired to hurt her. Owen, the love of her life, had seemingly disappeared and she assumed he was sulking about their off again on again relationship. Their year had been rocky, first with the murder of their colleague, Anna, and then Owen’s ensuing false arrest for Anna’s murder. More recently, Owen’s insecurities and jealousy of Tony’s interest in her had made their lives and their relationship tenuous. When he exited from their relationship a month ago, it had not been a ruse. He had to sort out what he really wanted and so had she. But, Owen realized quickly, and now told her frequently, that he could not live without her.
Her friends, Gwen, Frank and their sister Claire assisted with the surprise of Sylvia’s life. At the reception, Gwen made sure Claire maneuvered Sylvia to the right spot where she caught the bridal bouquet. Well into the reception, someone fixed a spotlight on the doors to the Inn. Owen emerged into the spotlight. The guests parted in a wave as Owen strode towards her looking very handsome and a rakish, sexy geek in a tuxedo, with a million dollar smile. Sylvia could only stand silently, stunned by his arrival. He took her hands, went down on one knee and asked her to marry him.
Gwen, Frank, and Claire descended upon her with laughter, tears, hugs and congratulations as soon as the word ‘yes’ was out of her mouth. Applause erupted from the crowd. Frank slapped Owen on the back in camaraderie. Only Audrey, Gwen’s mother-in-law was disdainful. Sylvia had been puzzled but learned later that Audrey did not approve of public engagements. Audrey insisted that it was a private moment and that it should not have interrupted her son’s wedding.
But, Audrey could not ruin the magic of the weekend. Owen booked a room at the Inn where the reception had taken place on the Connecticut waterfront. Sylvia could not imagine a more romantic weekend. She sighed blissfully at the memories.
Now, they were home at Bayside and ‘playing house,’ as her mother implied until they were married. They had not yet set a date. Yet, Sylvia began to experience what her friend Gwen had experienced, with both her mom, Mary, and Owen’s mom, Anne, offering almost daily suggestions on how, when and where to plan the wedding. Gwen was having a field day with this. After many heart-wrenching conversations about Mother Audrey, Gwen’s mother-in-law, overtaking the wedding plans, Gwen was in her own state of honeymoon bliss. She seemed to have amnesia about the angst she experienced while preparing her own, recent wedding. Percy tugged at the leash causing Sylvia to shake herself out of her daydream. He wanted to chase a squirrel racing through a neighbor’s lawn. She scolded him gently for pulling and he immediately settled back into a walk. Percy did a high-step down the road with a jaunty bounce to his doggy trot.
Their automatic destination was one or both of the marinas at the end of her neighborhood. Owen was determined to purchase a sailboat shortly. They had been to boat shows, but even better, had the nearby marinas to aid in their search. Even with her naiveté about boats, one of her favorite things to do now was to wander among the vessels, ogling them. Owen liked to talk to the owners and get their opinions on the various vessels. He was planning to purchase a sailboat, with a comfortable cabin, so that they could sail the Chesapeake Bay for their honeymoon. Owen insisted upon a sailboat over a powerboat. He had sailed from childhood on, taking sailing lessons for many summers at the Yacht Club in North Bay. Marian and Bran had kept him busy at the camp, and were delighted when he fell in love with sailing. Sailing was something he had shared with Bran on their “Flying Scot,” until Bran and Marian left for England. It was ‘just right’ as a starter sailboat, and day sailing was a perfect place for Owen to practice his sailing skills while Bran leaned back with his pipe and ‘supervised.’
Sailboats and sailing were uncharted waters for Sylvia. She teased Owen that she was only interested in power boats because, running a power boat was infinitely easier than learning to sail — or so she thought. There was something seductive about the power boats with their sleek design and how they sped through the water. She would catch her breath when one went past the house. But, Owen was insistent on sailing and she acquiesced to his fervor about sailboats.
The peaceful morning was broken by a loud roar of a cigarette boat. Some of the cigarette boat owners had taken off their mufflers and the sound of them racing through the bay was absolutely deafening. Most were kind enough to wait until they were through the ‘no wake’ zone in Bayside and neighboring communities, but some were not. They sped down the bay with a fantail of water shooting from the back end and a deafening roar. The residents along the bay could not even carry on a conversation without shouting. She and Owen often wondered the percentage of hearing loss the cigarette boat owners had after spending days, weeks and years roaring up and down the bay. Some of the smaller, quiet communities like Bayside had written petitions to no avail. The county turned a blind eye, due to the millions of dollars the boaters brought into the area. Even the marina owners tried to take the cigarette boat owners in hand, but there were still enough that did not care about the noise pollution they created. Sylvia sighed. The cigarette boat would pass in a moment and the sound would subside when the boater hit the larger, more open expanse of water just south of Bayside. She held her breath, waiting for the peacefulness to return.
Cigarette boat noise aside, it was still a glorious morning. The annoying sound of the vessel was quickly a faint memory as the boat faded from sight in larger open waters. Sylvia lifted her face up to the sun that lit up the eastern sky in a bowl of peach and gold with a light, transparent cloud cover. The opposite shore of the bay was bathed in a golden light reflected from the sun in the clouds. The sun burned through the light coating of clouds leaving swathes of the brilliant blue sky reflected in the sparkling blue water.
Sylvia and Percy walked past the boat lift area and a light warm breeze blew over the point of land that jutted out into the bay. She shivered briefly just as a cloud covered the sun for a moment. Then, an unexpected cold wave of fear descended on Sylvia. The last few months Sylvia had been fighting nightmares when she had been kidnapped last spring. She had spent a horrible time locked in the little hut at the county’s landfill, nearly dying of dehydration and starvation. The nightmarish memories of the kidnapping would strike her in unexpected moments. At various times during the day, Sylvia would need to stop what she was doing and breathe deeply in and out again slowly, clearing her mind from the fear and pain that descended on her. Her mantra was telling herself that she was indeed all right and that Tony and his goons were no longer around. Some nights she woke up screaming, curled up in a tight ball. Owen would soothe her and bring her back to reality. Her mother, sensing things were not all right, urged her to see a counselor or psychiatrist. Sylvia didn’t feel she had the time. Also, she told herself, Owen, and her mom she was feeling better every day. They were skeptical of her bravado and, so was she, but she would not admit it to them. She stopped walking for a minute. Percy sat somewhat impatiently beside her and whined softly. His liquid brown eyes looked up at her. Sylvia took a couple of deep breaths to clear the unhappy memory that blindsided her before continuing their walk.
Traffic was already picking up as the Pennsylvania Navy poured through the neighborhood making their way to their boats. Boaters were busy working on cleaning their vessels, doing a few repairs, or preparing to motor out of the marina and get into open water. Sleepy boaters who had spent the night on their boats made their way to the bathhouses for hot showers. Others made their way to the long low building that housed the marina store and café. Owen and Sylvia had become lazy some days, paying the exorbitant price for milk or bread instead of running to a grocery store in town.
The marina store reminded Sylvia of stores at campgrounds. It held sundries as well as some basic food items. It also had generic wines and beers and an unusual collection of single malt scotch. The café, on the other hand, changed from season to season depending on who leased the restaurant. The current café staff painted it with swathes of brilliant blue with large, oval blocks of pure white. It was bright and fresh. The wall design reminded Sylvia of billowing spinnakers on sailboats and whoever had painted it, was ingenious. The new restaurant owners exchanged the heavy picnic tables that were once inside and placed them outside for guests. Now, small round café tables graced the space with the triangular flags for boats under glass tabletops. Boating flags were strung gaily across the ceiling like Buddhist prayer flags and they would flutter when someone opened the door. Sylvia and Owen found themselves walking to the marina on the weekends for brunch or lunch, or to pick up sandwiches when neither felt like cooking.
Sylvia tied up Percy outside the café and went inside for a cup of coffee. A small brass bell tinkled as she opened the door and the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafted towards her. There was something sensuous about the rich, chocolaty smell of brewing coffee that Sylvia loved. She sniffed appreciatively as the coffee perfume invaded the air just outside the door of the café. Sylvia hurried inside to purchase her first cup of the morning. Percy sat patiently while Sylvia collected her coffee and chatted with the woman at the register catching up on neighborhood gossip.
Coffee in hand, Sylvia took Percy to the huge rocks that bordered the shoreline as a breakwater. She sat on the grassy edge next to the rocks with Percy. The sunlight on the water shimmered as if hundreds of tiny shards of mirrors rode the wavelets and glinted brightly in the sun. It was so bright, it was nearly blinding. Sylvia closed her eyes. She could feel the rhythm of the earth as she sat on the sun-warmed grass. The sun reigned and showered her with droplets of warmth. Sylvia felt the sunshine light upon her like the butterfly kisses Owen had peppered her face, neck, and body with the night before. Sylvia felt centered. She seemed centered in herself and at one with all creation. It was as if an invisible net linked her with everything around her and beyond. She felt at peace. A few moments later she heard a slight rustle of leaves at her elbow. The Green Man appeared.
“Hello,” she greeted him, slightly surprised.
“Good day to you, Sylvia,” he said in his rich, baritone voice.
The Green Man was a great, green angel of a figure. His skin was like living wood and his body a suit of leaves that looked like brocade. There were leaves on his face and two leaves like a mustache. Sylvia felt like he was a father or grandfather figure to her. He always seemed to offer some sort of wisdom and was there when she needed him. Since his appearance last year he had helped her too, with explaining and assisting with her gifts of seeing auras and dowsing. Now, he sat with her, not speaking for a few minutes, and Sylvia closed her eyes and turned her face to the sun. She was waiting as well. She felt him watching her. His presence added to the contentment she was feeling. Inadvertently, she leaned a little closer to him.
“You are happy,” he said as a statement.
She opened her eyes slowly and turned to look at him, a little surprised at this comment. “Yes,” she said, “Yes, I am. I am very happy.”
“That’s good,” he said, “you are very fortunate that you realize this.”
Puzzled, she gave him a quirky look. “Of course,” she said.
They sat in companionable silence. She waited patiently. Usually, the Green Man had something to tell or teach her. Sometimes his didactic comments annoyed her a little, but this time, he was silent. The silence was friendly. Sylvia decided to turn the tables and ask him a question that had bothered her for a long, long time, “Why me?”
“Pardon me?” The Green Man asked.
“Why me?” she asked again, “why did you choose to appear to me? What is my role in this subtle pattern that you have tantalized about through hints in the last year?”
“You are one of many, Sylvia,” the Green Man replied gently, but seriously. “You are one of the many who are working to save this beautiful planet and universe. You are one who connects. You are a shining star in the great pattern. You feel the rhythm of this world that pulses with life and agonize over the humans that want to destroy it.”
Sylvia remembered something Marian had told her the previous year about her Gran feeling the rhythm of the Earth. “Like my Gran?” she asked the Green Man.
He nodded, “Just like her,” he assured Sylvia. “Think about your gifts – of seeing auras, of knowing when part of our earth is ill or in danger, of your ability to heal the Earth. Think about what you did this spring, destroying the pollution through your dowsing.” He paused. “So, when you ask me that question…” He returned her look and smiled his familiar wry grin that she knew so well. “My only reply can be, why not? You are part of a great and beautiful pattern,” he answered with enigmatic humor.
With a brief rustle of leaves, he was gone. He had a tendency to do that – just disappear into thin air.
“Aargh!” she cried in frustration. “Wait!” she cried, “I have more questions,” she said to the air. Her frustrations were drowned out by the roar of another cigarette boat as it sped out of the marina and headed down the bay. She glared at it angrily and covered her ears with her hands.
To me, this was the best book in the series. Brubaker is a gifted writer and researches her topics in depth. It's a fast and enjoyable read!
To me, this was the best book in the series. Brubaker is a gifted writer and researches her topics in depth. It’s a fast and enjoyable read!
The Blossoming is the third in a series of The Green Man. Even under the protection of The Green Man, Sylvia and Owen keep running into dead bodies. Now they’re dealing with the pressure of putting together a wedding while finding a solution to a murder. I like the occasions when the Green Man appears to give Sylvia his cryptic warnings and how the meaning of his words are explained as the story unfolds. The descriptions of the bay and the surrounding area are vivid, but tempered by the reminders of the intrusions of modern day life, like cigar boats […]
N. A. F.
Another great read by Sharon Brubaker. Suspense filled. I read it in a day and a half because I couldn't put it down!
Another great read by Sharon Brubaker. Suspense filled. I read it in a day and a half because I couldn’t put it down! Adult scenes are tastefully written. Concerns of modern life are addressed well. I live across the Conowingo Dam from where the books are set, these books make me want to head over and check the area out. I hope there’s a #4 in the works. Though Sylvia and Owen could use a break.