Timeless River, Marianne Petit, Amore Moon Publishing, romance

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Time Travel Romance


By Marianne Petit

Be careful what you wish for...

Abigail Stewart won’t win any beauty contests, but she can talk to ghosts. One day at the river where the California gold rush started, she encounters the spirits of two children who were murdered under the blue moon of 1852. Legend has it their beautiful mother, Lolita, had drowned them in the river, but now Abby is not so sure the legend is true. Heartthrob Wyatt Beaufort is a spoiled rich-kid in college; he’s all about football and pretty women, and he doesn’t remember the date he had missed with Abby for Senior Prom, a jilt she has not forgotten. She wants nothing to do with him, but in a cruel twist, the two are whisked back in time to a harsh mining camp where Abby finds herself trapped in Lolita’s beautiful body, a woman who has eyes for Wyatt and a wicked temper. Their struggle to save the children tests the power of a mother’s love and the true meaning of inner beauty.





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Chapter One

Abby and the Legend.

I refused to believe the legend was true. As I sat with my best friend Cindi in her car parked at the river’s edge, waiting for some of her old high school friends to join us for a swim, I could feel the ambiance of this area, its history during the California Gold Rush. Though I wasn’t thrilled with meeting her friends, I liked it here, and to pass the time, we’d started talking about our town’s prominent legend.

“She killed her children on the night of the blue moon.” Cindi emphasized the words blue moon with a ghoulish flair in her voice and waved the porcelain figurine in her hands, a woman wearing a long red dress.

I disagreed. “I’m not so sure she killed her own kids.”

With the air conditioner rattling, my mind traveled back to the gold rush when the legend of the Weeping Woman began. Over one hundred seventy years ago, hundreds of men camped at this very spot on the South Fork of the American River, finding or losing their dreams for a pinch of gold dust.

The nearby town was called Dry Diggins back then, now my hometown of Placerville, California. It looks nothing like it did back in 1850 after the gold rush began at Sutter’s Mill, just nine miles downstream from here. There was a saloon in Dry Diggins, The Boomerang Gambling Hall and Saloon, where a woman who purportedly looked like the figurine sang for the miners, merchants, and gunslingers. One day, three murderers were caught and hanged from a large oak tree on Main Street, earning the town the nickname Hangtown.

Today, families laid out their blankets and picnic baskets along the riverbank, and children splashed and squealed in the frigid shallows, just out of reach of the midstream current. I could imagine the men digging and panning for gold among the frolicking kids, as if the rushing water carried whispers of the past.

“Earth to Abby. You’re zoning out on me again.” Cindi handed me the figurine. “Lolita sure was beautiful.”

I stared at the porcelain woman in my hand, her flowing black hair, Spanish green eyes, and golden brown skin, a most striking woman of her time. Her signature red cloak and red dress, the one they say she wore on the night of the murders, hugged her porcelain curves, and white pantalettes peeked out from beneath the gown. An engraving on the base read Lolita in sweeping letters, her stage name when she sang at the Boomerang.

“Cindi. They say her real name was Abigail, too, like mine, but I don’t believe she was a killer.”

“What makes you think the legend isn’t true?”

I sensed a ghostly presence of someone beside me. A chill prickled the hairs on my arm, as if Lolita were coaxing me to defend her. “Some say she was seen dancing and singing at a party the night her children died, so she couldn’t have killed them.”

“Hashtag, that’s only a theory.” She looked out the window toward the dirt road that led down to the riverbank from the upper parking lot. “I’m hot. I want to go swimming. What’s taking them so long, sis?”

We were like sisters, Cindi and I, and her endearment made me feel like I wasn’t alone in this world. I curled a strand of crimson hair around my index finger. There were two beauties in the car, and I wasn’t one of them. The term beach blonde fit my best friend to a T. She was slender, tanned by the California sun, and her figure would make Barbie Doll jealous. We’d been friends since middle school, though I didn’t know what she saw in me. I didn’t look like her, dress like her, figured it was just a matter of time before she’d tell me to get lost. It took a while to realize we both needed each other. She boosted my confidence on days when I felt down in the dumps about myself, and I encouraged her to see herself as more than a pretty face.

Still, I couldn’t tell her the real reason I thought the legend of the Weeping Woman was wrong. Cindi would go completely nuts if I told her I’d actually seen the kids’ ghosts, right here on this riverbank. Recalling that encounter still gave me the shivers.

It was the evening after I’d heard the little girl call for her mamma in my bedroom. I needed to get away from the house, so I drove here to think about that encounter and wonder what it meant. The setting sun colored the sky pink and orange and cast a golden glow across the swirling currents. From out of nowhere, two small children appeared on the riverbank, skipping along, throwing rocks into the water, and laughing like children at play. One was a girl, the other a small boy. Wondering what two children were doing out here by themselves, I walked toward them. “Hey, kids.”

They abruptly stopped and looked at me.

“Where are your parents?”

“We can’t find our mamma,” the little girl replied.

Mamma? I’ve heard that voice before.

I approached them but oddly, though they hadn’t stepped backward, my steps did not bring me any closer to them. “Who’s your mamma? Maybe I can find her, give her a call.”

“It’s Abigail,” the boy said.

His sister added, “The miners around here call her Lolita.”

Stunned, I stopped. There were no miners around here. I had to have heard wrong. The little girl couldn’t possibly be talking about Lolita, the Weeping Woman.

“Tell the lady,” the boy said to his sister.

“Joseph, hush.”

“Tell me what?”

“She didn’t-”

The girl grabbed his hand, and they began to glimmer and glide backwards down the riverbank.

As I stood in awe, I realized I was seeing the spirits of Lolita’s murdered children. “Wait.”

They stopped.

“I wish I could help you.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” the girl said, and they shimmered out of sight.

Warm fingers of a sudden wind had softly stroked my hair, raising tiny dimples on the back of my neck. My sixth sense told me I would see them again.

Even now, I recalled how they looked. The little girl wore a blue Victorian dress and bonnet. The boy wore cut off pants with suspenders. That night, I’d flicked through pages of a history book on the Gold Rush Era and found a section about the Weeping Woman legend. There I’d seen an old sepia photo of the same children, dressed the same way, standing at the river in front of a wooden rowboat. They were real back then...ghosts now...but why did they reveal themselves to me? What was Joseph trying to say before his sister hushed him? She didn’t...didn’t what? Kill them? Right. My best friend wouldn’t believe a word of it.