Archive for March, 2021

Here for your enjoyment if the first chapter of my new novel, “When Dreams Vanish”.

When Dreams Vanish

Chapter One: A Moment of Triumph

Andreas had played a particularly grueling game in the afternoon in their crosstown rivals’ stadium. The tackling during the game had been brutal, and thousands of the opposition’s fans had rained down abusive language on them throughout the game. Driving to his house after the game, he had grimaced each time he had taken a deep breath due to the sore spots on his ribcage produced by the elbows of defenders. He began to smile thinking of the winning goal he had scored in the first minute of extra time. With that goal his team had scratched out a three to two victory.  

The clock above the arc at the end of the entrance of his house showed him it was nearly five as he entered. A few minutes later he seated himself in the dining room and tried to forget the game. While he searched the newspaper’s pages to see what kinds of entertainments were offered this Saturday night, his housekeeper, Mrs. Williams, prepared him a light meal. He closed the newspaper and thanked her when she placed the plate of beef stir fry and a glass of tomato juice in front of him. I need to go and watch something elegant, something where no one gets mauled to take my mind off this afternoon’s game, he thought.

Once he had eaten, he dialed the box office at the arena and reserved one of the few remaining seats left at the figure skating event taking place in the arena downtown. In the newspaper he had read the competition was for the country’s championship and featured ladies’ singles that night. Convinced the performances of the skaters would keep him from replaying this day’s game in his mind he looked forward to a pleasant evening out of his house.

Andreas had purchased the house at the end of the previous season. At the beginning of this, his second season with the city’s Falcons Soccer Club, he had also purchased himself a pickup truck to better explore the backcountry. It was something he wanted to do more of during the off-season. He had also purchased a rundown commercial property at the edge of the city along the lake. The property came at a bargain he had thought was too good to pass up. He intended to build and apartment block with a small shopping center and a recreation center on the ten-acre site. A week earlier he had viewed the first draft of the plan the architects he had hired showed him. He had become excited about the project when he had viewed the plan. He had asked them to add a walk along the lakeshore and make two changes to the parking area.

After playing his first four professional seasons in his homeland, the local club had purchased the twenty-four-year-old player from the German club and signed him to a lucrative three-year contract. Andreas soon began to enjoy the city, his new country, and his new way of life. His teammates befriended him quickly. In the past two years the team had gained recognition as a contender for the cup and had become considerably younger. He had become a fan favorite quickly. His thirty-six goals in the past season’s thirty-eight games won him the league’s scoring title. When, at the beginning of this season, the team’s ownership offered him a new long-term contract with the option to remain with the club in a leading capacity after his playing days, Andreas decided not only to sign the contract but also to remain in the country beyond his playing days. He began to look for a house and fell in love with the property of his three-year-old rancher.

The previous owners, a middle-aged couple going through a divorce, had put the house up for a quick sale. A teammate, whose wife was the real estate broker for the couple, had alerted Andreas to the property. The original owners had spared no expense when they had the five-bedroom house and the two-bedroom bungalow built. They had also hired a semi-retired couple. The husband and wife served him as housekeeper and property manager. After Andreas had toured the property with the real estate agent, he had decided to purchase the home. While he had felt there were too many bedrooms in the house, he loved that two of them were bedroom suites with full size bathrooms. Thinking about the bedrooms he decided to convert the largest one into an exercise room. For half an hour he spoke with Mr. and Mrs. Williams after the tour and hired them to continue in the jobs they had come to love. While the house with its acre property, its quiet neighborhood, and the price were more than Andreas had hoped to find, he sometimes felt something was missing for it to be the kind of home he had experienced in his parents’ house as a child and youth.

Andreas could hear the applause before he entered the arena. An accident on the way to the arena had forced him to make a detour and caused him to enter at the end of the first performance. An usher guided him to his seat high up near one of the ends of the ice surface. He had hoped to get a seat closer to the performers but felt happy to have managed to get a seat two hours before this event. Seating himself he soon felt himself caught up in the excitement and the anticipation of the spectators. Ninety minutes into the program he heard the announcer introduce the last skater of the competition. Andreas’ interest piqued when he heard she was a hometown girl.

He turned his eyes to the entrance. Highlighted there in a flood of lights stood a young lady elegantly but conservatively clothed in light blue. Trying to recall her name, he looked at his program. “Olivia Klein,” he read. She had tied her blonde hair in a ponytail with a ribbon matching her outfit. “She is beautiful,” Andreas whispered and watched her glide to the center of the ice. She closed her eyes to focus herself. With the first note of the music she began her routine. All thought of the game he had played a few hours earlier vanished. Spellbound by the skater’s spins, jumps and loops Andreas dared not to blink. He watched her perform the layback spin and the Lutz with confidence and go into a combination of jumps in harmony with the melody. The spectators all seemed to hold their breath as she started to attempt a triple axel. They broke out in deafening applause when she landed it perfectly. Andreas felt as if he was watching a life performance of a fairytale seeing Olivia Klein perform the Biellmann Spin and finish her program in perfect sync with the music. A few minutes later he heard the announcer speak of Olivia’s scores which placed her first, and with it she became the new champion.

During the interview with a television reporter soon after she had won the country’s title, the reporter asked her to tell him what gave her the most satisfaction. Olivia did not have to think long before she replied. “I love life.” A bright smile lit up her face as she said it. “I  gain a great deal of satisfaction from spending time with family and friends, singing in the church choir, playing the piano, enjoying several sports, helping children learn to skate, researching for my classes at the college, and volunteering my spare time in the church and at community events.”

The reporter began to laugh and asked, “Spare time, do you have any spare time? It sounds to me you need more than twenty-four hours in each day to do half of what you told me you love to do. Is there no one in your life who has swept you off your feet? It seems to me there can be no time left in your life for such a relationship.”

“Yes, there is a man whom I’m dating. As juniors we skated together. We started to date more than a year ago. We are both busy people and try hard to reserve time for each other.”

Andreas stopped to listen to the interview at this point knowing part of it would be aired on the local television stations after the evening news the next day. He was impressed with what Olivia said and with the confident way she spoke. An hour later he walked from the arena toward his car. As he left, he hummed the melody that had accompanied the last skater’s performance. On the way out he met a teammate and his wife and chatted with them for a few minutes. Several of his team’s fans leaving the arena greeted him and asked for an autograph. While they spoke, he caught a glimpse of Olivia Klein smiling at several fans who were surrounding her, eager for her autograph. She looks incredibly lovely, he thought. He tried to concentrate on his conversation with his fans, but his eyes kept returning to the young woman standing amid several admirers.

Olivia remained at the arena until the last of her fans and friends had left. She would see her friends at the party her best friend, Doris, had planned for the evening. Olivia felt happy and fulfilled. Her thoughts turned to the many hours of practicing over the last two years and the strict diet and daily routines her coach had demanded her to follow. She had not always appreciated the restrictions and had balked at her insisting that she needed to give up skiing for a few years. Her coach, Maria Rimby, had even frowned on her playing on the college ladies’ soccer team. She walked to where Maria chatted with another coach. “I’m going home now, Maria,” she said. She embraced her and thanked her for coaching her. It was all worth it, Maria,” she said smiling at her. “You ‘re the best. Thank you for putting up with me.”

For a moment Olivia surveyed the three groups of people still left in the entrance hall of the arena. She had hoped Mark would have come to watch this competition. He knew how much I wanted to win this title and how hard I had needed to train to have a good chance to win it, she thought.  Mark and Olivia had been a team at one time. Three years earlier they had won the junior dance title. When Mark had an accident the following summer that cut his skating career short, she had decided not to look for a new partner, but skate as a single. The young, former skating partner had remained her friend and fifteen months earlier they had begun to date.

Olivia sighed thinking of Mark as she left the arena. She felt elated winning the title, but not finding Mark among her many fans dampened her happiness more than she wanted to admit. Instead of driving to her apartment she decided to stop at The Oasis, a dining room and deli at the harbor, one of her favorite places to eat. The party her friend had organized in her honor was not to start until nine, and at the moment she did not want to be alone in her apartment. Once she had been seated, she noticed a young man being served a generous slice of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream on top of it. When the waitress left his table, the young man looked her way. Their eyes met for a moment. He began to smile at her making a wave of warmth rising within her. He soon began to enjoy his dessert and she glanced at him again. It occurred to her that she had seen him at the arena less than an hour earlier. She felt certain she had seen him elsewhere also, and she tried hard to recall where that might have been.

The dessert he ate looked delicious to Olivia. She knew Maria would not approve of her eating this item, but she ordered the dessert thinking winning the title deserved a small reward. Before she finished her eating, she noticed in her peripheral vision the young man making ready to leave. She looked up as he was about to walk past her. His smile sent a shower of heat through her being. He nodded at her, smiled, and was gone from her view. It took a minute for her to collect herself and finish her dessert. But her thoughts remained on the young man who had greeted her with a smile and a nod.

Olivia arrived at the Grant’s mansion twenty minutes before nine. Doris greeted her, took her by the hand and led her into the room the family called banquet room. The family’s servants with Doris directing them had set up the room festively. A large table loaded with finger food and fine wines stood at one of the walls. Across from it three colored floodlights lit up a movie screen. “We’re going to watch several handsome, eligible bachelors at their best tonight. I had to pay a paparazzi friend to get these clips, but it’ll be worth it. He told me there are several interesting clips included. By the way, I invited seven of our friends and our soccer team to the party, but none of the coaches. Matter of fact there will be no guys, not even Mark. We’ll have a blast without them tonight.”

For the most part the party was enjoyable for the girls. Pleasant chatter, lots of laughs at jokes and stories about each other kept everyone engaged. The fine wines, and the delicious snacks made for pleasant hours. Most of the girls did not use illegal drugs. Doris’ father had instructed his daughter to make certain no drugs would be consumed in his house and on his property. She made this known at the start of the party in no uncertain terms and kept a careful watch on the few she knew occasionally did use them. To her relief she did not need to tell anyone to leave.

When Doris announced it was time for the show the girls clapped noisily. The clips of the bachelors quickly became a hit with them all, especially the single girls. They whistled and shouted their approval. Clips of Mark and the Falcons’ German soccer player were among the sixteen men featured. Olivia sat up straight when she saw the first clip of Andreas. That is the man I saw at the Oasis, she thought. She recalled seeing Andreas mopped by fans when he had left the arena. To loud catcalls some clips showed well known single guys with little to cover them. At the end of this display the girls voted for who they thought won the loudest applause. It turned out to be a tie between Andreas Prinz and Ted Callas who had been in the news recently for running for one hundred sixty-eight yards and scoring two touchdowns for the city’s football team. To break the tie Doris insisted that she, as the host, be given a second vote. Doing a short suggestive dance, she declared Andreas the winner.   

Not until the middle of the following week did Mark come to see Olivia. He apologized briefly for missing her winning performance and not contacting her earlier. He told her the case on which he worked at the present time had demanded that he devote most of his time preparing for it. To make it up to her he picked her up at the arena after her practice the following day and took her out for dinner. For much of the evening he spoke about the cases on which he worked. While she did not mention it to him, it hurt her a little that he did not ask her to tell him about the title and cup she had won and how she had prepared for it for months. When Mark suggested they go to his apartment for a time after their meal, she told him she needed to prepare for a test at the college and asked him to take her to her place instead. In front of her apartment complex she thanked him for taking her out for dinner, kissed him briefly and hurried from the car.  

For the rest of the skating season Olivia experienced much success. Mark did come to watch her at two events and brought her a bouquet on one of those occasions. At the world championship she won a silver medal, and in the spring, she repeated the feat at the Olympics. Several of the reporters had told their audience they had rated her performance better than the gold medal winner’s performance. Olivia was happy, nevertheless. She had skated at her first Olympic competition and won a silver medal. She knew few people in the world could match this. What mattered to her was that she could feel proud of how she had skated and for what she had accomplished. At the end of the skating competitions she looked forward to the off-season and to spending time swimming, golfing, playing soccer. Not needing to rise at five in the morning every day to go to the rink also pleased her. Her coach had demanded she skate for an hour twice on three days each week and to do the prescribed exercises every second day during the off-season. Having more time to meet with her friends thrilled her, as did volunteering her time at several of the community’s events.

On the last Saturday of June Olivia, Doris and two of their teammates decided to go to watch the Falcons play the league’s leading team. The team was ahead of their hometown team by one point. The Falcons had lost both games to their rival the previous season and had tied them in their match at the opposition’s stadium at the beginning of the current season. This day the Falcons came out from their dressing room to loud applause from their many fans. The team in turn treated them to wonderful, fast match with pinpoint passing. Andreas put his team on the board in the first half with a booming shot into the top right-hand corner from twenty yards out. United tied the game early in the second half. The Falcons’ halfback scored with a header sixty-two minutes into the game, but the visitors tied the game once more a few minutes later. Four minutes from full time Andreas, on a give and go, broke through the defense, and gave his team the lead once more with a beautiful goal off the bottom left-hand post. At the second minute of extra time Andreas scored his third goal heading the ball into the net from a corner kick. The fans went wild shouting his name and singing the team’s song. Olivia and her friends had enjoyed every second of the game. She listened with interest to her friends raving about the handsome, highly skilled striker. While she had not voiced her opinion of him to her friends, she did find him attractive in every way. She had marveled at his skill, liked the respect he showed to his opponents, the way he interacted with the fans and the officials, and the fact he worked hard throughout the match. It told her a great deal about the man’s character.

Sunday afternoon Olivia, Mark, Doris, and a young man Doris occasionally dated met at the golf club for a nine-hole game. After six holes, to Mark’s chagrin, Olivia was at two below par while he was four over par. Doris and her friend were not accomplished golfers and played for the enjoyment of the game. That Olivia might top him in the game did not humor Mark, and he became quiet and moody. His attitude did not improve when Andreas approached and greeted Olivia in the clubhouse half an hour later. Andreas, along with one of his teammates, the teammate’s wife, and her sister were preparing to go out on the course.

Olivia remembered seeing him at the arena, at the restaurant, and at the party Doris had planned for her and their friends where they had watched clips of some of the bachelors Doris deemed hot, single men. She smiled at Andreas when she saw him and his friends walking toward her. For a moment she saw him in those clips again. He greeted her and introduced himself and his friends before he said, “May I tell you how much I enjoyed your performance for the country’s championship a couple months ago. “You performed the combination jumps beautifully and landed that triple axel perfectly. Congratulations. I had found your performance delightful.” They chatted for a minute longer before Andreas and his friends needed to go to tee off and left.

All the way down the first fairway Andreas’ thoughts remained with Olivia. From teammates he had learned she played soccer, was an excellent skier, snowboarder, and gymnast. According to his teammates she also played tennis and loved to swim. He also participated in many of these sports. Walking down the fairway he wondered what her golf score was this day. That she was beautiful, friendly, and unpretentious had not escaped him as well during the few times he had seen and chatted with her.

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