Title: The Auroran
Author: Jeffrey Ross
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 3
August Nightingale quits his job and begins a winter road trip through Nebraska. His surprising journey takes him to a special place where he learns to love, and live, again.
August Nightingale, in late middle age, has had little success with relationships-- and not much meaningful satisfaction in the world of work. Abruptly deciding to “leave it all behind,” he embarks on a snowy road trip to visit Civil War battlefields in Pennsylvania. His journey becomes one of self-realization. A mishap on the highway, the kindness of his beautiful neighbor Sarah (who helps him to convalesce), and the friendly people of Aurora change his life and his heart. This mature romance novel shows that it is never too late to find happiness, to experience meaningful love, when souls are honest and open to the truths of human experience.
Right after Natasha left him, August got involved with a beautiful artist. She was a thin, leggy-yet-boyish blond with curly hair and faint pink lipstick. They had a strangely potent connection grounded in pastel landscapes and cold beer.
Shelby enjoyed plein-air painting. Nighty met her at the college. She was an adjunct art instructor. Something about the way she looked and smelled and painted drove him crazy. He nearly melted into a weak puddle of primary colors when he heard her voice on the telephone. How can logic explain such a reaction?
He purchased several of her paintings from a local gallery and innocently had her come over to his motorhome to "hang" them correctly. This aesthetic-minded event turned into a five or six-year on-again-off-again relationship.
They had a perpetual fire-cracker hot attraction to each other. He spent as much time with her as he possibly could. Yes, he enjoyed drinking beer and watching her paint desert and mountain landscapes. He would stop playing his guitar or reading a book at a moment's notice and drive the six miles over to her three-bedroom house on Northern Avenue just to see her, to hear her speak, to kiss her lips. She was always so glad to see him during those early years.
On numerous weekends, Nighty and Shelby drove hundreds of miles across open high desert country to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico. They enjoyed camping and cooking outdoors and sleeping in a tent like wrestling pretzels. Nighty especially enjoyed the late autumn afternoons, when he would wear a light jacket and stocking cap, and breathe perfect, dry, tree-scented air.
Even on the coolest of afternoons, however, Shelby would wear a spaghetti-string halter top and shorts. She needed freedom to move, few restrictions, and the motion mechanics required for broad and powerful strokes.
Sometimes her work reminded Nighty of Bierstadt's paintings.
Nighty's days in such camps were relaxed and calming. He was only responsible for keeping the coffee pot ready and making campfire meals. Shelby's daytime hours were productive.
Typically, Nighty would sit on a lawn chair and watch her paint. He would scrutinize the movement of her firm arms and her brush strokes and sense the powerful kinetic relationship between a beautiful woman and her art. He was still transfixed at the image of her swirling paint from the palette.
Many of his best nights were with Shelby in the tent, listening to the autumnal wind rustle pines and push leaves across the forest floor.
Such aesthetics cannot be dissected, creases of pure and sensual ballet, potent and powerful dreams massaged by bristlecone and sleepy birds.
Romance was good, always very good. All it took was a brush of lips or incidental touch of fingertips, and they were loving.
And on the stormy nights, the howling wind would shriek passionately, driven by primitive, unchained forces, making poetic melodies in the potent darkness, perhaps fearful of the dawn and hasty dew-dripped illumination.
Shelby almost always wore a fragrant powder which made Nighty think of the nineteenth century. The aroma drove him mad. He could smell her, feel her, and hear her, to this day. But she was gone. The lovely artist was yet another ghost of his increasingly distant past.
Nighty was often sad their relationship did not mature or develop. On the contrary, their affair collapsed after several jealous rages. Accusations flew like mosquitoes on a late summer Georgia night. Shelby left him for an artist in Taos. She told Nighty, matter-of-factly, he was too materialistic. She couldn't be with a man any longer who stayed in a job he didn't like and complained all the time. She couldn't understand why he didn't pursue his music career.
Her old impressionist lover, Leigh, invited her to Taos for a working weekend. She never returned. Nightly did nothing to bring her back, to coax her back. He let her go. He often wondered if he would have felt differently about her if she had been a musician or a sculptor. Probably not. Too much energy. With a fleeting moment of intense clarity, Nighty recognized he was interested in her for what she did, what she created, not for her core being.
Of course, those times were also way back before cell phones and the internet. Nighty looked for Shelby with Google back in 2013, for a minute or two, just out of curiosity. He didn't find her. Gone.
He missed her art. Nighty still had a few of her paintings hanging in his motorhome. To an extent, he missed her too. But the Taos business had soured him.
He could still smell the powder, though. He surely hadn't forgotten those legs.