I believe in incentivizing achievement (okay, bribery). I promised a Skygods excerpt for shelf adds on Goodreads, and you delivered!
So now I’m delivering.
Have I mentioned that Skygods hits stores in TEN DAYS? Well, it does!
Enjoy the substantial snippet.
The rest of the ride was chilly and silent.
The train slowly pulled into the 190th Street station. Samuel ground his teeth as we left the platform and stepped into an industrial elevator, brusquely nodding to the attendant.
But the odd discomfort melted away when the doors opened and we stepped into a world of green, green, green. The picture Samuel sent me weeks ago didn’t do the place justice. Some brilliant city planner made wondrous use of the naturally hilly terrain, and what emerged was a fairytale blend of stone arches and shady foliage. As we climbed higher into the Fort Tryon Park, I caught a glimpse of the Hudson River far below, gray and hazy.
“Are you sure this is Manhattan?”
“Oh yes, we’re on the edge of Washington Heights. Take a jaunt south down Broadway and you’ll hit the Dominican neighborhood, follow the merengue. But these bluffs…I always feel as though I’m walking through a Thoreau poem when I’m here,” Samuel murmured. “‘Give me thy most privy place, where to run my airy race…‘ The park’s still something of a secret. Or it seems that way, to me.”
My lips quirked—Samuel and his poetry. For him, musing over the Romantics was akin to breathing, it came so naturally. If I tried, I’d sound like a haughty snoot.
“So, which bench do you sleep on?”
He laughed. “None of these. My apartment building is across that grassy stretch—see the archway?—then down a set of stairs. This is a round-about way to get there, but I couldn’t wait to show you the park.”
We walked in silence. Suddenly, Samuel dragged light fingers along my spine and I jumped. His face was full of apology.
“I’m sorry I snapped at you. You asked a fair question.”
I waved him away. “It’s okay. I’m not your parent.”
“I’m trying to be more open.”
He rubbed the knuckle of my ring finger, squeezed it, and let it go, his face twisted in defeat. It made me sad. No, no defeat, Samuel. Look how far we’d travelled on this third road. Two months ago, I wouldn’t have even known to ask.
I watched him shuffle the package between his arms. “Speaking of being open, are you going to tell me what’s in that thing?” I nudged him with my elbow. “Did Ace bring you a bust of Ted Williams?”
“Um….no. It’s an urn.”
I cocked my head. An urn?
“It contains my mother’s ashes.”
I pivoted so quickly, my purse swung off my shoulder. “You’ve been carrying a cremation urn all afternoon? Your…y-your mother.” My hands flew to my mouth as I eyed the package that contained the earthly remains of Rachel Caulfield Cabral. “I wish I’d known. Oh Samuel, I’m so sorry.” I had no idea what to say, so only awkwardness spilled from my mouth. “We should have taken the taxi so you didn’t have to carry them—her—onto the subway. What if you’d been robbed?”
He shrugged. “Then some thief would be sorely disappointed.”
“Where did it—she—come from?”
“Ace’s relatives came across them in the family home. He called and asked if I wanted the urn. I guess no one else did.”
“That’s really heartbreaking.” Sorrow for Rachel Caulfield Cabral crept into my chest, in spite of myself. I eyed the morbid box as we descended the park stairs into the neighborhood below.
He was right—the bottom of the bluff was a different world of Art Deco and fire escapes.
“Is it legal to fly with remains?”
“I don’t know. Ace took his family’s private plane. Here’s my place.” He stopped in front of an eight-story façade with awnings. I noticed he refused to refer to the Caulfields as his own family. I knew he’d never cared about them, but his omission was so deliberate, it was almost passive aggressive.
As he collected his held mail from the doorman, I took in the lobby. Cracked tile floors, mint walls—nothing like the gentrified East Village brownstones. According to Samuel, Inwood suited him perfectly, unlike the “bohemian” neighborhoods south of Fourteenth Street. I jokingly called him a snob. Yet another dichotomy of Samuel Caulfield Cabral, formerly of Lyons. He turned up his nose at pretention, but kept his own secrets and failings guarded beneath a veneer of flawlessness.
“So, what are you going to do with the urn?” I hedged.
He sighed. “No clue. I’d rather not talk about it anymore.”
Yes, Samuel’s head needed a serious feng shui but, like he said, he was trying. Open him carefully… I fingered the laminated poem in my purse.
There was nothing more I could do for Samuel right now and, frankly, he didn’t want me to. I wrapped my arms around his middle and murmured a last “I’m so sorry about your mother.” Then I promptly collapsed into the first bed I was steered toward, where sleep came to collect.