It starts with the call you hope will never come from the relative you pray will never visit, not for a day, not for an hour, not even for a minute.

"I'm coming to stay with you," Aunt Corona says.

Not a question, a directive. The call is unexpected. Her tone is commanding, as if she has the power to stop time. You're not prepared with an excuse, a.k.a. a plausible lie. 

"Um, sure, yeah, okay, but I have this thing..." You stammer.

"What thing, dear?" Aunt Corona asks.

"Just a thing." You've always been a terrible liar.

"When is it, darling?"

You blanch. Her sickingly sweet tone and use of endearments are pure manipulation. 

"Um, I'm not sure when it is. Any day now? Maybe in a few weeks or months?" You try and change the conversation. "I thought you were in Asia."

"I was but I did everything I wanted to do there so I made my way to Europe."

You're not surprised. Aunt Corona has always been that elusive relative who travels the world and comes and goes as she pleases. Her stay unwelcome and too long.

"It must be nice to see so many interesting places." You say, stalling some more, trying to think of an excuse that will keep her far from your home, from your community, from your life. You fear a repeat of 1981 when your great aunt, Corona's mother, came to town and didn't leave for decades. 

"I'm in the States now," she says. "Got here a few days ago in time to celebrate the new year. 2020 is going to be awesome. I can feel it." 

You hesitate to ask the next question. "Where are you in the States?" You say a prayer she is not nearby.

"Outside of Seattle. Heading to San Francisco next. After that I'll travel across the country to New York City. You know how much I love the city. I plan on doing some serious damage there. Then I'll make my way to New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras and to Miami for the Winter Party. That's when I'll stay with you."

Again, not a request.

"Uh, great. Sure. Um, for how long? I mean, I'm trying to make plans for this thing I have."

"Right, that thing." 

Did Aunt Corona snicker?

"Cancel that thing," she says. Her voice lowers as if sharing a secret. "Actually, cancel everything."

"I can't cancel everything." You shriek at her audacity. "I have to go to work, I just joined a new gym, I have plans with my friends and family..."

"I know you have a busy life, dear, but trust me, you'll be slowing down."

Anger boils in your gut and you recall a story your grandmother told you about when she was a little girl in 1918 and her aunt, Corona's great grandmother (you think), came to stay and didn't leave for two very long years, the entrails of her destruction the ever-lasting reminders of her visit.

You think, shouldn't I be the one to stop this pandemic of visiting relatives, intruders actually? Why do I have to continue with the family tradition of being manipulated and used? You decide to stick up for yourself and for all your relatives before you.

"No," you say, hoping the word came out of your mouth with as much force as you heard it in your head.

Aunt Corona chuckles. "That's cute, dear. I'll see you no later then March first. And, darling..."

You hesitate to bite, but you do. "Yes?"

"I'll be staying a couple of months. But don't worry, after I'm gone and you go back to work and return to the gym and you spend time with family and friends again, don't be sad. I'll return a few weeks later."

She hangs up. Your iPhone sits in the palm of your hand. You search your recent calls. An incoming one from your sister twenty minutes earlier. Another incoming call from your brother the evening before. No recent unknown calls. No recent spam alerts from AT&T. You put your phone down, let go a long exhale, and search the genealogical chart in your head. You recall no Aunt Corona in your family. No unwelcome relatives coming to visit and staying too long. You think to call your mother or your siblings to make sure you have this correct but realize they'll probably think you're crazy. Your brother will make a joke about you needing to start taking meds. You laugh and realize it was a bad dream. One of those wide awake nightmares. You smile and try to remember that thing you have to do.

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Joanne Lewis Blog




joanne lewis

When Joanne Lewis is not practicing law, she is writing. She pens murder mysteries, historical fiction and historical fantasy books and is the author of several award-winning novels. As an author, she hopes to entertain, to educate, and perhaps to enlighten. As an attorney, she is most proud of her work as an assistant state attorney and as a guardian ad litem representing the best interests of children.

Her books are available on Kindle, as paperbacks, and as audio books.

Her latest release is Bee King, a historical novel that is about the first person in the United States diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and takes place from the start of the Civil War until 1910. Just like the people who inhabited Five Points in lower Manhattan during the 1800s and the turn of the century, Bee King traverses the pentagonal streets where abolitionists battled copperheads, immigrants clashed among social, religious and political strife, and doctors and psychologists strained to help patients. Told in Five Points (sections), Bee King is dramatized through conventional literary devices as well as through newspaper articles, a manifesto, and other non-traditional tools.

The Forbidden trilogy consists of the novels: Forbidden Room, Forbidden Night, and Forbidden Horses. Forbidden Room is her best-selling novel.

In Forbidden Room, the first book in the Forbidden trilogy, new attorney Michael Tucker has few clients, yearns to be like his famous grandmother and cannot afford to move out of his parents' home. Sara Goldstein is an heiress accused of killing her uncle. When Sara hires Michael, he gets the chance to defend an innocent person, a beautiful lover and notoriety like his grandmother. But is it more than he asked for? Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer?

Forbidden Night, the second book in the Forbidden trilogy, delves further into Michael and Sara’s complicated relationship, as well as into Soldier Boy’s psyche, into their family histories, and into the creation of the carousel horses. The question posed in Forbidden Room, the first book of the Forbidden trilogy—Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer—is answered.

Forbidden Horses, the final book in the Forbidden trilogy, travels to the eighteenth century and takes place in Austria to reveal the troubled history of the creation of the carousel horses.

Michelangelo & Me is a series of five novellas in the genre of historical fantasy.

In the first book of the series, Michelangelo & the Morgue, seventeen-year-old Michelangelo defies religious and political powers in order to capture a serial killer who is murdering the artists of Florence. In Sleeping Cupid, the second book, Michelangelo’s believed-to-be lost statue narrates his journey from fifteenth century Florence, Italy until the present day where he lives in an attic in a sleepy Florida town. Future books in the anthology include Space Between, School of the World and Michelangelo & Me.

The Lantern is a historical novel about a modern-day woman's search to find a girl from 15th century Florence, Italy who dared to enter the competition to build the lantern on top of Brunelleschi's dome. Across time and space, three lives collide as they battle abuse, disease, fear and prejudice in pursuit of their dreams. Along the way, they intersect with some of the most famous figures of the Renaissance including members of the Medici, Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello and a young Michelangelo.

Wicked Good, a different kind of love story, begins in Bangor, Maine. Fifteen-year-old Rory is not defined by his diagnoses of Asperger's syndrome and Bipolar Disorder and lives life to the fullest. Archer, his adoptive mother, is Rory's biggest fan. Rory searches for his birth parents to find out why he is the way he is. He discovers his roots in Salem, Massachusetts where the Salem Witch Trials had occurred, and in Gloucester, Massachusetts where fishermen went down with the Andrea Gail during the Perfect Storm. He also learns his true roots are closest to his home in Bangor. As Rory discovers truths about himself, Archer learns about herself too.

Make Your Own Luck is the unforgettable and moving novel of Remy Summer Woods, a young attorney who refuses to believe thirteen-year-old Bonita Pickney killed her father, Patrick Pickney. Remy risks her relationship with her own father as well as her life to prove Bonita's innocence. Along with learning what happened the night Patrick was murdered, Remy discovers hard truths about her family and herself.

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