READ EXCERPT - Not Exactly Eden

NOT EXACTLY EDEN by Linda Windsor


Not Exactly Eden
by: Linda Windsor

Multnomah Publishers Inc.
ISBN: 1576734455
June 2000



"I knew this would happen! It's deja vu! I feel like I'm saying good-by for the last time!"

Jenna Marsten put a comforting arm around her aunt's shoulder and handed her a tissue. Outside the chauffeured limousine, the by passes and road signs flashed by, a concrete blue interspersed with highway green. With the airport as their destination, this was Violet Winston's last ditch effort to keep Jenna from making the mistake of her life and the woman was giving it all she had.

"Aunt Vi, just because my mother was killed in a jungle plane crash doesn't mean I'll be! Planes and airports have improved over the last few decades in South America, I'm sure!"

It wasn't that her aunt was just being her usual dominant self and didn't care. She did. Violet Winston and her late husband Ben raised Jenna as their own daughter, giving her the best life one of Boston's blue blood families had to offer. Her debut into society was one of the most publicized cotillions ever held at the country club. Having gone to all the right schools, here and abroad, Jenna was now assistant Director of the Fine Arts Foundation. According to her aunt, she was tossing all away to go into the same tropical wilderness that had killed her parents... or at least one of them.

"I wish you'd never seen that ugly little Indian thing. If I'd only been thinking, instead of stewing over the cancellations, you never would have..." her aunt fretted, trailing off with a tremulous sigh.

"I'm glad you were distracted! I had a right to know my father is alive, even if he did want nothing to do with me. But let's not go there again," Jenna added, wanting to avoid yet another emotional conflict.

She knew in her heart that Aunt Violet only sought to protect her. From what remained to be seen. From further rejection? Jenna couldn't... wouldn't think about it. All she knew is it was something she had to do.

Who'd have guessed that returning gifts from a broken wedding engagement would lead her to discover the truth about the accident, which had left her believing she was an orphan? Her aunt tried to dismiss the crudely wrapped package as coming from one of Jenna's eccentric circle of associates at the art foundation where she worked, someone who'd forgotten to include a card. The return address of Ichitas, Peru and the newspaper in which the carved figure was wrapped, however, told another story.

"Didn't Benjamin and I love you enough?" Violet added the used tissue to the increasing wad she twisted with manicured, jeweled fingers beginning to draw with arthritis. "Why do you have to go look up a father who'd rather stay in the jungle than raise his only daughter? He took your mother away from us and now he's taking you!" Jenna's heart twinged, nailed twice by a spear of guilt and one of angst. It wasn't like she was doing this to hurt the woman. Why couldn't her aunt look beyond her intense dislike of her brother-in-law and see this? If she truly wanted to help, she'd not add to the doubt Jenna was trying so desperately to ignore - that her father might not want her to find him.

Jenna pushed the lock of honey blonde hair that she'd been toying with behind her ear before she started to chew on it, a telltale sign of suppressed anxiety since her childhood.

"Aunt Vi, please don't do this. You and Uncle Ben have been the only parents I've ever known. I love you dearly, but I have to go. I've always felt there was a part of me that was missing and now I know why. I want to meet my father."

One of the foundation's experts identified the figure as an enigma of South American Indian origin. The stone was fashioned from was quite old, indigenous to the Amazon. An ensuing investigation as to how it came to her at least distracted Jenna from the trauma of Scott Pierson's choosing a lucrative position in a Middle East oil conglomerate and postponing their wedding. At least she knew where she stood in the ambitious engineer's priorities.

"I think Scott actually did me a favor, postponing the wedding." God, please make the events leading to this no accident. I'm flying blind here. I don't want to look my father up for the wrong reason, running from this recent rejection to another. I just feel like nothing in my life is as I thought, my family, my engagement...

"I could wring that young man's neck, choosing to work halfway around the world, when he had a perfectly good job here! It wasn't like he needed the money."

The Piersons were one of Boston's older families. Scott's mother and Violet attended boarding school together, as well as an exclusive women's college. The match was made in heaven as far as they were concerned. Jenna and Scott were the picture perfect couple, both fair and attractive, with promising careers and all the right contacts. Like all of Jenna's life, their future was put together in a neat little package, adorned with approval. Maybe that's what bothered Scott... and, in retrospect, Jenna herself.

"Better to find out where I stand now than later. Besides, marriage isn't totally out of the question. It's just been put off for a while."

Jenna, at least, was over the stage of anger. The sudden decision still hurt, but now that she had found peace and hope with it through her faith and the Scripture so prevalent in her mother's diaries, she was determined to be relieved.

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.

This had happened for a good reason. Neither she, nor Scott, were as ready for a lifetime commitment to each other as they and everyone else thought. Besides, Jenna consoled herself in the belief that God could take disappointments and turn them into opportunities. The mysterious figurine had to be part of His plan.

She leaned back against the plush upholstery of the limo as the driver turned into the airport.

"You just don't know what you're getting into!" Aunt Violet went on by her side. "Lord knows, I've tried to protect you from it. Your mother's journals paint a pretty picture, but she was looking at the world through love struck eyes."

Jenna had read the yellowed pages over and over through the years in an attempt to get to know Diana Marsten. She knew of her mother's rebellion against the family's wishes to become a nurse, and worse yet, to marry beneath her station, even if Robert Marsten was a doctor. She'd felt her mother's excitement as she and the man she loved ventured off into the Amazon to set up a clinic and study jungle medicine. Diana Marsten wrote with the heart of a woman who knew where she was going and why - a heart with a purpose.

"And like your mother, you're just as stubborn."

For the first time in her life, Jenna felt like she too had a purpose. No longer was she slipping into slot after convenient slot. Long suppressed, her inherited rebellious nature had finally found freedom. Yes, she was going to meet the father she'd never known, the father who'd handed her over to the Winstons and never looked back, at least until he's somehow heard about her wedding plans. This journey, however, was something more than looking up her father. What she couldn't say. All she knew was that it was one she had to make.

"But I can tell you right now, dear," Aunt Violet said, placing her hand over Jenna's and squeezing it with genuine affection. "I've been there and it's no tropical paradise."

Jenna returned the gesture in earnest. "But I'm not looking for paradise, Aunt Vi. I'm looking for my life."

Not Scott's, not her aunt and uncle's, not her father's nor her mothers- her life.