Seeking Rachel

CHAPTER ONE



“You came all the way from my home in Whitehaven to see me?” Rachel Lockhart peered across the winding gravel path outside her cousin’s townhouse in Mayfair, an exclusive and stylish residential district in London.

Vadoma, an aged Gypsy woman and her best friend, hobbled toward her.

After an extended spell of rain and being confined indoors, Rachel had decided on a walk and fresh air. Nature always invigorated her. The evening breeze was cool, typical for late April, and she tugged her silken blue cape closer about her shoulders.

“’Tis a two-day trip by horseback to London.”

Vadoma took another labored step, leaning weightily on her cane. Her springy grey hair, never tamed, flowed riotously about her weathered face.

Rachel raced to the woman and embraced her. Mysterious scents of black pepper and wood smoke brought a flood of childhood recollections. Why had she ever agreed to leave the peaceful countryside of her home? Memories of idyllic days, giggling and splashing by a stream, running through the grass with the Gypsies and their broods, whispered through her thoughts. Her heart ached for those happier times.

But hopes and dreams were demolished long ago.

Sastimos, my sweet child who runs like the wind, good health to you,” Vadoma said.

Rachel blinked back tears. “And to you.”

“Be brave.” Vadoma’s walnut-brown eyes narrowed in her weather-beaten face. “A woman doesn’t shed tears like an infant.”

Chagrined, Rachel wiped her eyes with her fingers. “’Tis difficult being all alone in such a big city. London is overridden with people.”

“You’re not all alone. You’re with your cousin, Charlotte. Furthermore, I’m here now.”

“For how long?”

“A minute, an hour. It depends.”

“Depends on what?”

“You’ll see.”

Rachel cocked her head, waiting for an explanation that never came. Vadoma always did this—imparting secret knowledge and then awaiting—The fates? Destiny? Rachel could never be sure.

“When did you arrive?” she asked.

“A while ago.”

“You rode a horse from Whitehaven?”

“’Tis not the summer. My tribe isn’t camped near Whitehaven yet.”

“As usual, you explain little, Vadoma.” Rachel viewed the full moon lighting the flawlessly landscaped gardens and shining down on her friend’s olive complexion. “Where is the tribe, then, if not in Whitehaven?”

“Here and there.”

“And so you walked here.”

Vadoma shot her a smug smirk. “Perhaps I didn’t walk.”

“You didn’t walk. You didn’t ride. Then how—”

“How else?” With a conspiratorial wink, Vadoma set her ever-present wooden cane on the grass by an enormous fountain. “Gypsy magic.”