By Virtues’ Design is the first book in The Judge Chronicles. Below is a taste of what you’ll find inside. Book three, Dawn of Justice will be released next month. Be sure to check back for further announcements.
By Virtues’ Design, Book One in The Judge Chronicles
“Your soup is getting cold.”
“¡Ay, Mami! I am trying to get some work done.” Maria plopped down on the chair in the dining room. At least she got through most of the work and only needed to add a small section in the feasibility study before Chela and friends arrived to help prepare and write out the addresses on all the wedding invitations.
Her mother jabbed a finger into her arm. “You’re always trying to get work done. I made this albondigas soup for you and I even put the extra broth in as you like it.”
Maria looked at her primly dressed mother and planted a kiss on her cheek. “Gracias, Mami. You’re the best.” Her mother really took good care of her, making her soup so she could finish up her work in time.
Maria rested her napkin on her black trousers and picked off a piece of lint from her stretchy lacy top, the one her mother insisted she buy because it accentuated her ‘assets.’ She looked up at her mother when she realized she hadn’t moved. “Yes?”
Her mother leaned closer. “I’m your mother. Of course I’m the best.” She thrust a finger towards the bowl. “Now eat before it gets cold again!” She then spun around and marched back into the kitchen.
Maria chuckled at her mother’s antics as she picked up her spoon and started to dip it into the soup.
A face wavered over the surface.
The spoon fell to the floor with a clatter.
Her mother took one look at her and rushed over. “What’s wrong with the soup?” She looked into the bowl and screamed. In her native Spanish tongue, she made the sign of the cross and followed it with a succession of choice ethnic curses. “Como…!”
“I think the question is ‘who’ is that, Mami.”
“Who is it?” her mother screeched.
It was impossible, but there he was. Dear god, there he was! “It’s Jacob.”
“Jacob?” Her mother shrieked.
“And who are the men and that lady standing around him?”
“I don’t know.” Maria bit her lower lip in a wide smile as she gazed at him.
He smiled back and turned to her mother.
“Oh!” Maria jumped up out of her seat as her mother screamed, clutching Maria’s sleeve.
Her mother made a squeal of fear as she craned her neck to look into the bowl again, only to scream once more.
Jacob turned back to Maria.
He was really looking at her? This kind of stuff couldn’t be made up. It had to be real. “He found a way to do it.”
“To do what?” her mother squeaked.
“He found a way to communicate back and forth between our worlds.” She couldn’t look away from him. “He’s so perfect, isn’t he, Mami?”
“I don’t know. I’m still trying to find out how he got into my soup.”
“Look at him, Mami. It’s him. It’s really him.” Maria waved her fingers at him and he waved back. The others behind him also waved.
This sent her mother screaming again and running back.
Maria covered her mouth as she laughed exuberantly. “He actually did it.”
The image began to fade.
“No! Please, not yet.” Maria shook her head as she went closer to the bowl.
Jacob blew a kiss to her and she blew one back to him just as the image disappeared, leaving only a bowl of boiling albondigas soup.
Maria waited, but his image didn’t return.
She turned to her mother who still had her hands over her mouth in shock. “He’s real, Mami. Jacob…he’s…real.”
Her mother stared at her for a time and then finally shot to the phone. “I need to call Alberto. He’s got the name of a good therapist. Maybe he can take the two of us at the same time.”
Maria took the phone from her mother’s hand. “You saw what I saw.”
“I don’t know what I saw,” her mother countered. “Maybe it’s brujeria. I don’t know.”
“Witchcraft isn’t real.”
“Then you try to explain how the man in your dreams is suddenly showing up in my soup!”
“It could be that he used…” No, she couldn’t finish that sentence. Telling her mother Jacob used magic would make her call a psychologist and a psychiatrist. “He just simply found a way for us to communicate. He promised me he would find a way for me to stay in touch with you when I go to his world.”
“Mija! Do you even hear yourself when you say such things? You’ve taken this fantasy thing too far. It’s one thing to daydream, but an entirely different thing to believe it.” Her mother grabbed her arms. “Don’t you see you’re not well? You need to see a doctor, find out why you’re having these dreams and now hallucinations.”
“Might I remind you that you saw it too?”
Her mother shook her head as she let her go. “I don’t know what I saw. I can’t believe it. It’s too crazy. Maybe I’ve been listening to you talk about him so much that now it’s affecting me. I’m very stressed with the wedding, and…”
“Mami, you can try to deny it all you like, but you saw it too. I’m not crazy. It’s real. Now I know for certain. I can plan.”
“Plan for what? You’re not leaving me!” Her mother backed away. “You’re not going just when I’m about to become happy. How could you do this to me? I’m your mother! You don’t abandon your mother.”
“I’m not abandoning you and I’m not gone yet.” Maria stepped closer to her mother, but her mother went further back.
Before she could say another word, her mother went to her bowl, brought it to the sink and dumped it down the drain. With a jerk of her wrist, she flipped the garbage disposal on and ran water over it.
“There, now it’s gone. I must have put something bad in there that made us hallucinate. Or maybe its mold. The house is old.” Her mother started looking around, as though expecting to find the culprit along the walls.
Maria turned the disposal off. “Mami.” Her mother didn’t look at her, so she turned her around to face her. “I’m not abandoning you. You’re getting married to Gabino and I don’t think you’re abandoning me. You’re about to start a new life with a wonderful man. We’re not always going to live together, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see each other.”
“We better see each other and not just in albondigas soup!”
Maria saw the fear in her mother’s eyes. “The soup isn’t what’s upsetting you. It’s the fact I met someone. And even if he were close by, you’re afraid you and I won’t see each other often after you get married. I’m right, aren’t I?”
Her mother crossed her arms. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy. Very happy. And I’d be happy too if you met a normal man. But yes, things won’t be the same.”
Aha! Maria thought. “I love you. That will never change. And no matter what happens, I’m still your daughter and I’ll be there for you.”
“I know. I’m just worried, especially considering all this talk about Jacob and going to other worlds. I love the time we spend together and I’m going to miss it.”
“Me too, but that’s the beauty of memories. We can relive those as many times as we want.”
Her mother cocked her head at Maria. “You know we’re crazy for what we saw?”
“I’ll believe what I want, you believe what you want,” Maria playfully jibbed.
Her mother gave her a dry expression. “That is a tired argument.”
“Just quoting you.” Maria giggled.
“Uh-huh.” Her mother picked up the contents of the pot and dumped it down the drain with the rest of the other soup.
“Hey! I’m hungry and you’re getting rid of dinner.”
“You better believe I am. I don’t want to see another man looking at me while I eat his face.”
Maria laughed. “You never know. You might like it.”
Her mother let out an exaggerated sigh, struggling to keep herself from laughing. “That is not funny.”
“Yeah it is.”
“No, it isn’t.” Her mother made her way into the living room for her purse, which meant they were going out for dinner.
Maria grabbed her purse too. “Yes, it is…”
“Hey, what about your work?”
“It can wait.”
“Oh, now it can wait,” her mother grumbled as she yanked the door open.
They got into the car and started down the street.
“Don’t talk about this soup incident with Gabino,” Her mother said as she made a left turn. “I don’t want him to think we’re crazy.”
“I’ve only told you and Liz about Jacob. No one else. People at the office suspect I’ve met someone, but I’m not talking about it.”
“Good. It’s none of their business.”
They arrived at the Mexican restaurant and were seated right away. The waiter came with a basket of tortilla chips and salsa and asked for their orders. Her mother got her usual shredded beef taco and cheese enchilada, with a side of pico salad.
“And for you, Miss?” The waiter asked Maria.
She looked up at him with a wide grin. “I’ll have a big bowl of your albondigas soup with extra broth.”
“¡Ay Maria, por Dios!”