A mesmerizing story of loss, betrayal, heartache and beauty. A gripping family saga reaching across the miles—from the workaday Midwest to fast-paced adventure in the Last Frontier.
Estranged sisters, in desperation, reach out to one another. Will family loyalties be enough to undo years of alienation?
Find excitement, suspense, adventure, romance, and drama in this riveting story. Laugh and cry with Leila and Nikki as they grow in self-knowledge. Hang on to your seat as you relive flying scenes that leave you breathless. Hope against hope that tragedy will not win in the end.
D.M. Dubay lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Bud. When not writing she spends time tending their small vineyard with him and landscaping their property, hiking with their children and two granddaughters, singing with multiple groups and volunteering as a spiritual director.
She spent years flying around Alaska as a professional pilot, exploring the Last Frontier. Now, a retired Northwest Airlines international pilot, she flies her own plane for pleasure. Her love of flying and the great outdoors permeates her novels as well as her poetry. In her writing, D.M. Dubay emphasizes the importance of faith, hope and love.
Tales of Two Sisters is now available on Amazon.com
EXCERPT FROM TALES OF TWO SISTERS
“Gerik,” Nikki says as soon as she enters the house after the track workout, “What do you think about me taking a rock climbing class?”
“What next? I suppose you’ll take up sky diving pretty soon. What has gotten into you? You’re not the same person anymore. Your hair and your clothes are different. I never know what to expect. But you’ll do as you please, anyway, so why ask me?” He pauses. “Actually, it will be nice to have some peace and quiet around here. Go ahead. In fact, I’ll probably spend a couple evenings at the office while you’re at class to catch up on work.”
After her conversation with Gerik, Nikki is more determined than ever to take the rock climbing class. I don’t know why he loves that office so much. He is hardly ever at home anymore anyway and I have to have something to do with my time. Emma is always busy with sports and school and work. Danny is off at college. I just drift aimlessly around the house with nothing to do, nobody to cook for. Why not have some fun?
She talks Daphne into taking the class with her, telling her that she will pick her up for the first class.
They walk in together—late as Daphne usually is—to hear the instructor saying, “Okay, everyone, pick two partners about your size. I’ve shown you how to fasten the harnesses and tie the knots. Now I want you each to watch the others put them on again and I will come around and check. Let’s get started.”
Nikki looks around the gym. The fake rock structure overshadows everything else in the room. The ceiling is barely visible and the huge windows overlooking the river give one the impression of being outdoors. The floor beneath the climbing wall looks like it is covered with small black stones, but as Nikki steps onto them they feel soft and squishy. They smell like ground up rubber tires. Cabinets along the wall hold shoes and climbing harnesses. They had walked through an area that had climbing gear for sale but Nikki did not pay much attention. She is fascinated by the rock wall and notices little else.
The instructor turns to Nikki and Daphne. He grabs them around the shoulders and ushers them to the supply cabinet.
“You must be my last two students. Let’s get you some shoes first. What size do you wear? There. Try those on. Next, the harness. This looks like it should fit you. Slip those on while I check their knots. I’ll be right back.” He goes off to help the other students.
Daphne in her black, lycra knee length pants and fitted V-neck knit cotton shirt is dressed appropriately for climbing. Nikki, however, is wearing tan cotton slacks and a sleeveless cotton blouse that does not give or stretch. Luckily, they are both loose enough so they will not restrict her movements.
“What a hunk!” Daphne says as he walks away. “Look at those bulging arm muscles and that tight ass.”
“Shhh.“ Nikki says, “He’ll hear you.”
“Oh, all men want to be admired,” Daphne grins. “Why do you think he wears such skin tight pants? I wonder how old he is. Maybe he’s not too young for me. He looks about thirty-five or so. I wonder what he is doing after the class. Maybe he would like some company.”
“Is that all you ever think of, Daph?” Nikki says with exasperation. “Let’s get this stuff on before he comes back.”
Nikki struggles to get her legs into the right straps of the harness and has everything twisted around so as she tries to stand up, the tangles cause her to lose her balance. She stumbles towards the shoe rack. Suddenly she feels strong arms around her from behind, helping her to her feet.
“Oh, I’m sorry I’m such a klutz,” Nikki says to the instructor as she turns in his arms to face him. “This is not going very well.”
Daphne in the meantime has gotten her shoes and harness on and is gazing admiringly at him. She steps towards him and places a hand on his forearm.
“You’ll have to excuse my friend,” she says, “She’s a bit nervous about taking this class.” He pulls his arm back, ignoring her advance.
Turning back to Nikki he says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. I’m Grant Tobin, but my friends all call me Granite. And you must be Nikki Selzer. You missed some of the important instructions at the beginning, so let’s go over it now.”
He turns to Daphne and says, “It looks like you already know some of the basics. Why don’t you join Mary and Hannah over there,” pointing as he says, “Hannah is the one with the bright blue shirt. She’ll fill you in.”
Granite helps Nikki through the first class and encourages her to keep trying when she panics on the wall and can’t find a hand or foothold. The first time she makes it to the top of the beginner wall and rings the bell at the top he yells, “All right, I knew you could do it. Great job! Now push off and I’ll support you as you rappel down.”
Nikki’s heart is pounding as she clings to the wall, afraid to look down. Her throat constricts. She can’t even get a word out to say that she can’t do it. Her fingertips are tingling and her legs are starting to shake. It seems as though an eternity goes by before the sound of Granite’s voice penetrates her consciousness. It is a soothing voice: deep and even—confident—sure—believable.
“Come on, Nikki, I won’t let you fall. I’m holding you all the way. Just take a little step. Relax into the harness. There. That’s it. Come on. Let yourself fly a little. Feel the thrill of the descent. That’s it. That’s it! Great! You look like a pro!”
Tears are streaming down her face as she reaches the floor. She stumbles and Granite catches her.
“I’ll never get it,” she cries.
“But you did it, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did. And I have to admit, that last part was fun, once I let go.”
Granite is all business. “Your reactions are completely normal. It’s good to have a healthy respect and even a healthy fear of the unknown. I wouldn’t want anyone on a rock face who did not admit to the danger. It’s the overconfident and cocky students who worry me. You will do just fine. I’m looking forward to your outdoor climb at the end of this class.”
Nikki looks at the floor, embarrassed. “Thank you for having confidence in me. I’ve never done much physical exercise before this. In fact, I just recently have gotten into speed walking, so it’s nice to know that there’s hope for me. My husband thinks I’m uncoordinated and won’t even let me play golf with him. Our son, on the other hand, can do any physical activity he sets his mind to and excel at it. He’s on a baseball scholarship at the University of Illinois in Urbana. He must get the coordination from his father.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. You’ve got strong legs and good balance. If you spent a little time at the gym lifting weights, your arms would be as strong as your legs.” Granite pinches her biceps. “Yes, you’ve got the makings of a great rock climber.” The rest of the evening flies by and Nikki is beaming as they leave the rock climbing gym.
In the car on the way home, Daphne complains about the instructor spending the entire class with Nikki.
“Well, I needed help. I didn’t have much confidence starting out and I needed extra attention. But wasn’t it fun? I saw you laughing over there with your two partners. You looked like you were really getting into it. I think you’re just jealous that Granite spent that time with me and not you. I saw how you were physically attracted to him.”
“He is a hunk, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, but you’re not used to having any man ignore you. They all love you, Daphne. When they don’t fall for you it’s notable. So, get used to it and, welcome to the real world.” Nikki pauses, glances at Daphne and says, “How do you think I feel when we’re together and men we meet act as though I am invisible?”
Daphne, sounding repentant and remorseful, says, “Nikki, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know that was happening. Maybe I have been a little self-centered and thoughtless.”
Nikki takes Granite’s advice and starts lifting weights at the Athletic Club. Staff members at the gym familiarize her with the machines that provide a full body workout. She eagerly goes to the next climbing class—alone. Daphne says she has an evening meeting she can’t get out of. Nikki gets there early so she can buy shoes and a harness. She admits that she is hooked on the idea of rock climbing and decides that she will continue even if Daphne drops out.
Granite smiles broadly when he sees her. “I was wondering if I would ever see you again,” he says. “You seemed terrified at the first class, but I’m glad you came back. You showed real promise. And I’m glad you wore a little more appropriate clothing. I meant to mention that before you left last time. It looked like your clothes were hindering your moves.”
Nikki answers with a laugh. “Yes, I certainly was terrified. I had totally the wrong clothes, but I think I am addicted to adrenaline. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of rappelling. You’re a good teacher, Granite. Can you help me pick out some shoes?”
“Hang on just a sec,” he says. “Let me finish with this customer and then I’ll be right with you.”
“Yes, I’m good at hanging on,” Nikki says. “Remember last week?” Granite walks back to the checkout counter, laughing.
By the time class time rolls around, Nikki has her shoes and harness and other supplies that Granite recommended. She has made a couple of climbs up the beginner wall with him belaying and she rappels down with confidence. Tonight she will progress to an intermediate wall. She finds that the walls are graded according to difficulty, pitch and number of handholds. This gym uses a grading system based on the Yosemite Decimal System of difficulty with certain modifications. The routes range from a simple positive slope with plenty of artificial handholds and footholds evenly spaced, graded as a 5.0, to a negative pitch with only natural notches and crevices to grasp which are difficult to find. These are graded as a 5.11. Outdoors there is no limit to the difficulty of climbing, but in the gym under controlled conditions, a 5.11 is as difficult as they get. On her second attempt at the wall graded as a 5.4, she makes it to the top. Half way up she learned first hand what Granite meant by “sewing machine” leg. Her leg shook with the strain of supporting all her weight on a precarious perch. Before it gave out entirely, she managed to find a good handhold and gave her fatigued leg muscles a rest before continuing to the top.
Nikki thinks about little else during the six weeks of the rock climbing class. She even goes several extra times to the gym for her solo climbs and is disappointed the one time that Granite is not there to belay her. Daphne continues with the class, but has missed at least half of them. She always has an excuse. She does meet Nikki at the gym once or twice to belay, after being signed off to climb without an instructor.
Granite’s encouragement and smooth sounding voice pop into Nikki’s mind and she finds herself daydreaming of mountain climbing scenes with fresh air blowing through her hair and reaching the apex of a tough wall with Granite waiting for her at the top.
At home, everything—even the granite counters in the kitchen—reminds her of Granite. She smiles to herself and her heart beats a little faster to think of his words of praise for her. She imagines romantic scenes in mountain meadows: birds singing, flowers blooming, Granite gazing proudly at her, saying, “Yes, Nikki, I knew you could do it. I knew that you would love it as much as I do.”
Aroused at the thought of his nearness, her face reddens as she stands at the counter slicing onions. She doesn’t hear Emma enter the house.
Emma walks into the kitchen looking for a snack. She gives her mom a hug. “Hey, it’s not that hot in here, Mom. How come you’re beet-red?”
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER TWO
Leila hears someone stomping through the woods towards the shelter and wakes with a start. It’s Rudy. She realizes this was all a memory. But it seemed so real. Sadness hits her with such force that she can barely push herself away from the tree she is leaning against.
“Hey, Mom…MOM. HELLO!” Rudy’s voice gets louder as he approaches. “Where do you want your sleeping bag?”
Leila shakes her head. “I’ll take care of it, Rudy.” She busies herself with her sleeping bag and pad.
Trying to cover up her inattention, she says, “You know the first time I was here with your Dad was only a few months before you were born. He made me trudge through the woods from where we parked the plane. I was as big as a house. Of course he wouldn’t tell me anything about it until I saw it for myself. I could have killed him when he forced me to traipse through that dense, wet underbrush. But when I saw this spectacular monolith, I knew that it would become our special place. The summer after you were born, we took you here on your first camping trip. It was raining again and the sound of the rain on the water put you right to sleep. After that, we came here every chance we got. It was our own special place. I know other people used it, but we never had to share it with anyone. This spot was your introduction to camping and you have loved it ever since.”
“I knew that, Mom. Dad told me how much this place meant to you. He told me all about that first trip. That’s the main reason I conspired to get you here today. I had it all planned out, but I had to pretend that it was a last minute thing so you wouldn’t have time to think.”
“I sure didn’t.”
“It was the only way to get you in a plane again. This is the first time since the accident, and it’s been over two years. But aren’t you glad you came?”
“I am, Rudy. I really am.”
“You have to get your life back, Mom. You can’t just mope around the office all the time. I miss Dad so badly; it feels like my right arm has been cut off. But we’re still living. It hurts me just as much to see you wandering off in a daze all the time. Sometimes I have to say your name three or four times before you come back to the present and reality.”
“I’m sorry, Rudy, but I miss your dad terribly. We did everything together. He was my life. I never had time to prepare.” Leila swallows, smiling through her tears. “But you know, you are so much like him. You remind me of him every day. When you were born only a couple months after that trip, I knew from day one that you were your father’s son. When you were a baby, you cried for him, rather than me, to hold you.”
“I don’t remember hearing that before.”
“It’s true. You know, he was the first one to make you laugh out loud. Only he could comfort you when you suffered from colic. I was beginning to get jealous and felt guilty about being a bad mother, but when I saw how you adored him and that special bond you had with him. . . . .” Leila wipes her nose and continues, “Ana and Nat always clung to me, but you…”
Rudy reaches out to put his hand on Leila’s shoulder.
“As soon as you could toddle around, you followed him around the office when he wasn’t flying and hung on his pant leg. Do you remember that wooden airplane tricycle he made for you when you were three years old?”
Rudy smiles. “Uh-huh.”
“You always insisted on bringing it everywhere you went. You threw tantrums if we couldn’t fit it in the car right next to you.”
“I do remember. Whatever happened to it?”
“I think it’s somewhere in the crawlspace. I was so glad when you finally outgrew it.”
“We’ll have to dig it out one of these days.”
“Yeah, one of these days. But remember how he took you everywhere with him?”
“He even made you a booster seat for the Super Cub so you could see out the window when he took you flying.”
Rudy clears his throat and roughly brushes his sleeve across his eyes to hide his tears. “I’d better get a line in the water if we are going to have dinner.” He grabs his fishing gear. “Just relax, Mom, I’ll be right back.”
Walking quickly towards a small clearing upstream from their camp, Rudy reminisces about flying and fishing with his dad. He laughs to himself as he remembers his first solo flight.
“I’m lucky Dad didn’t ground me for good after that misadventure.”