When Amalia was nearly eight months old, Anna finished her third book, Darkness of Pseumish. This time she sent the flash drive by an insured, private courier. She called Bob several days later to make sure he had gotten it. “Yes! It looks great. I’ve only skimmed it a bit, you know. Listen, Anna, I’m glad you’ve called. I need to talk to you about something. I’ve been in contact with your American publisher and they think you should come and do book signings in several cities there. Like say, a ten city tour, or something like that. It would boost your reputation in the US and make your American publisher happy. What do you think?” She thought for a moment and then said, “That sounds fantastic! Will they choose the cities? I’m not sure how all that works.” Bob replied, “Yes, they will set it all up with important book stores in key cities and all you have to do is show up at the store at the right time.” “Ok, let me know when they have my schedule,” she said. They exchanged pleasantries and then hung up. She sat in silence for a long time. She had never thought that she would become a famous author doing a book signing tour. She was so excited! Gisella wanted to know what her publisher had said. When she told her she ended by saying, “I think we need to make a trip to Milan first. I want to make a good impression when I do my tour.” Two days later Bob called her back to give her the schedule. “All right, have you got a pen and paper? Well, never mind that, I can email you this schedule, but I just wanted to let you know I had it already.” “Gracious, that was fast!” she replied. He forwarded her the email while they were still chatting on the phone. “If you need anything else, let me know,” Bob said before hanging up. Anna looked over the list of cities and stores. Boston, Miami, Nashville, Austin, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Chicago were to be her destinations. She grimaced when she read Nashville on the list. She had no desire to set foot in Tennessee. But then again, perhaps her mom would drive to Nashville to see her and meet Amalia. Her tour would begin in a little over two weeks, so she had time for her Milan trip and any other preparations she wanted to make. Anna hired a car to take them to Milan and be her transport for her shopping trips. She didn’t want to mess with crowded buses or trains this time. She had so much fun buying smart looking outfits befitting a published author. She bought shoes and accessories as well. She also bought plenty of adorable outfits for Amalia, even though she didn’t really need them and she would always be at the hotel with Gisella. They raced back to Trieste to make sure Gisella and Amalia’s papers were in order for the trip. She had to make hotel reservations and transportation arrangements for each city they were to visit. She and Gisella spent several days packing the group of suitcases they would live out of for the next month. The day before their flight, Anna went to a hair salon. The hairdresser stood quietly behind Anna as she thought about what she wanted. Her long hair had never been cut other than a slight trim. She wanted a sophisticated look for her tour. “I think you can take off ten centimeters and layer it. Just make it beautiful!” she finally said. The hairdresser did her craft well and Anna walked out completely satisfied. She had large wispy curls at the bottom of her hair and it all felt so much lighter. Gisella declared it a success when she saw her and said she was “bella, bella!”
“Wish me luck!” she said to Gisella as she stood at the hotel door. They had landed in New York the day before and she was now on her way to her first signing. She noticed her old butterflies were back to doing their little dance. It actually made her smile because she knew she was embarking on a new chapter in her life. Her driver pulled in front of the large bookstore and she got out. She had to take in the feel of the environment around her for a moment before entering. She found a sales lady and said, “I’m Anna Nathan.” She used her maiden name on her books to avoid all the weirdness of her past. “Oh, oh, goodness. Right this way,” the lady told her. As she started to lead her to the back, Anna noticed a full length poster about today’s signing with a picture of her second book and a small picture of her. She was led to the back of the store where a large table was set up with a chair and a whole stack of Sharpies. “Now, we will cut off the line in an hour,” the woman said. Anna had no idea what she was talking about until they unlatched a cord at the end of a bookshelf and the hopeful customers began to line up at her table. She gazed open mouthed at the number of people here to see her and buy her book. She gained control of herself and looked the first customer in the eye, “Thank you for coming! Who should I make this to?” Her hour was up before she knew it and there were still a lot of people. “I’m not in a hurry. I’ll sign some more if it’s okay with you,” she said to the nervous sales lady. They let her sign for another half hour and she was able to satisfy most of the waiting customers. “You have to be one of the nicest authors I’ve ever met,” the woman said as Anna was preparing to leave. They gave her the tally, she had signed over 200 books. Not bad for her first signing. They spent two more days in New York and Anna wished she had saved some of her shopping for this city. Next on her tour was Boston. It was a very short flight. This was a much slower paced city and Anna enjoyed walking around its historic streets. The bookstore here was smaller, but had just as many eager customers waiting to meet her. Her American publisher happened to be in Boston, so she went to meet them the next day. She recognized one of the head editors from her signing the day before. Apparently, he had gone to get a sneak peek at their new author. She was happy with this establishment and thanked them for their interest in her. They arranged for her to have a photo shoot so that they would have pictures to put on her tour signs and books. That was a first for her, but she felt glamorous as the photographer snapped away hoping for one good picture out of a hundred. She rested for three days and then they flew to Miami. She began to notice what her publisher in England had told her; how the book was interesting to a “wide range of people.” In Miami, there were young and old, men and women waiting in line to have her sign their books. A young, classic nerd with black framed glasses and all came to her table. “Now, I’m just curious. Is Pseumish a Sci-fi place or not?” She could see he was completely serious, but she had a hard time holding her laugh. “Well, no, actually it’s more like a place of imagination; like Alice in Wonderland,” she answered. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and then stated, “You do know that Lewis Carroll was under the influence of opiates when he wrote that. Does that mean it’s a place of drug induced visions?” She couldn’t help laughing this time. “I can honestly tell you that no opiates were used in the creation of Pseumish.” She signed his book and was still giggling about that encounter several customers later. She signed books for two hours in Miami and her shoulders were so sore afterwards. She was happy to take advantage of her hotel’s masseuse. She was still incredulous to the fact that she had so many fans.
Her next stop was Nashville. She had two days until that appointment, so she called her mother. Her mother was glad she had called, but didn’t give any hope that she would come see her in Nashville. Anna became irritated, “Put Dad on the phone!” Her mother obliged. “You listen here, Daddy! I want you to put Mama in the truck and you two are going to come see me and your grandbaby on Saturday. Do you hear me? You can leave that horrible pit of depression for one day to see your own daughter.” He sighed loudly and then replied, “All right, I’ll bring her. Tell me where we have to go.” She emailed the directions to her mom and told them to come to her hotel in the morning so they could spend time with Amalia after she was gone for the book signing. She half expected them to back out, but early that Saturday morning, she got the call that they were in the lobby. She told them what room she was in and they came up. She cried and held them both for a long time when they entered her room. Finally she turned and picked up Amalia. “Mom, Daddy, this is Amalia. Meet your grandbaby,” Her mother threw out her arms and swept up the child in a tight embrace. “I am so happy to meet you, my precious granddaughter,” she said. “Don’t hog her!” her father said and he took a turn hugging her. Amalia seemed very happy with these new people. “Look here, sweetie, I’ve brought you a bear,” Anna’s mother said. It was a handmade patchwork bear sewn from different pink fabrics. “It’s adorable Mom,” Anna said and Amalia grabbed the bear and squeezed it. She let out a little laugh and her grandpa was completely wrapped around her little finger. Anna introduced them to Gisella and told them how much she had done for her. “Well, I know you’ve just gotten here, but I’ve got to go to the signing now. When I get back we can go out to eat some lunch. I’m sure you can find something to do here,” she said while smiling between her parents and the baby.
Anna was greeted at the door of the large Nashville bookstore with a life size picture of her. It was the one they took in Boston. “Wow, now that is creepy,” she thought looking over her likeness. She would never have to introduce herself to a salesperson again; because they all knew exactly what she looked like. Sure enough, a man came walking swiftly up to her, “Ah, Miss Nathan, so good to see you. If you would please, follow me to the signing table.” She just smiled and followed him and his jaunty gate to the table. The line was enormous and there was a cheer when she came and sat down. Many of the staff had come to watch and there was a cameraman from a local news channel to document her signing. She put on her professional smile and went to work appeasing the mass of customers. In the back of her mind she still dreaded seeing anyone from Platzville, but she knew this was the last place on earth any of them would be caught dead. A professor type came up to her table and asked, “Can you tell me if Pseumish is based upon a place in real life, like an allegory or something?” She was thinking, “If people only knew who I was writing about…….” Instead she said, “Nope, just imagination.” This was mostly true since her stories had gone way beyond actual events in Platzville. She was so glad that these people didn’t know that Pseumish was inspired by back woods Tennessee, or they might not be here buying her book. She made it through the line of customers, the gawking staff, and the eager cameraman and headed back to the hotel. She was starving and ready to spend more time with her parents.
They enjoyed a big lunch and she was happy to be able to treat her parents. “We ain’t seen nobody from Platzville since you left,” her father said. She hated when he talked like that, but it was his culture. Her father added, “You know that fella that shot Roy went to jail.” She figured he didn’t know what her mom told her in their emails. “Yes. How is the saw mill?” she asked. He told her it was the same as always. He missed the extra business from the Muller family, but that things were fine without them. She told them a little about Italy and how much she loved living there. The whole concept of living in a foreign country made her father uneasy, but he was genuinely happy that she had joy in her life now. “Well, Anna, I do hate to leave you and my grandbaby, but we’ve got to get on the road,” he said after they were finished eating. She loved that he had taken possession of her daughter as his own. “Daddy, you promise me you will at least let Mama come visit me in Italy. I would love it if you would come too, but I know that might be too difficult for you to manage. You have to promise me, though, that you will let her come. I’m going to buy the ticket. Promise me, Daddy!” she pled with him. He knit his brows together and then relaxed them, “You win, you and your mother can plan that trip. I couldn’t possibly come, you know.” She hugged him tight and thanked him. Her mother let a few tears of joy slip out. After many hugs and salutations, her parents left. She felt so glad that she had made them come to see her. She could now focus on the rest of her tour.
Their next stop was Austin, Texas. She enjoyed the state where everything was big and laughed when the staff of the bookstore presented her with a plate of bbq from a famous smokehouse. She passed a rack of bumper stickers on her way to the table. One caught her eye that said, “Keep Austin Weird.” “What in the world does that mean?” she thought. She soon found out. The line before her consisted of every kind of person she could imagine. From dreadlocks to yuppie, she saw them all in the people waiting to meet her. A woman with green hair and two nose rings made her way to the table. Her clothes were all black and white and she had lots of makeup on. “Your books rock!” she said when she was in front of Anna. She could only smile and say, “Thank you so much. I appreciate you reading them.” Anna suddenly felt so sheltered even though she had lived across the ocean. “God loves everybody. God loves everybody…” she told herself over and over. She made it through the line and the staff asked her to sign her life sized picture for their store. She laughed while she signed her leg.
They flew to Los Angeles during a rainstorm and the landing was a bit rough. Amalia didn’t cry at all and Anna was thankful. Their hotel was close to Rodeo Drive and Anna wanted to do some shopping when the rain stopped. However, it rained the rest of the day. So, they spent a quiet day in their hotel suite and she pulled out her laptop to work on ideas for book four. The next day she dressed up especially nice, it was L.A., and hired a car to take her to the store. It was really fancy. The manager escorted her upstairs and seated her in a plush swivel chair with a small side table. “This should be interesting.” As she made her way through the line of customers she thought, “I have never seen so many fake body parts in my life.” She wondered how the women could talk with their lips all pumped up. “Just get a bee sting, it’s cheaper,” she imagined herself saying. After the staff had turned away the end of the line, she noticed a man in a suit standing to the side waiting for her. She was a bit nervous when he approached her. “Hi, I’m Marshall Davies from Willow Studios. We’ve read your first book and think it would make a fantastic movie.” She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Let me give you my card and if you are interested, give me a call,” he said. He then politely shook her hand and left. She turned to the manager and asked, “Have you ever heard of him or Willow Studios?” “Oh yeah, they’ve made a bunch of popular movies,” he replied. “Okay, thanks,” she said and then went out to find her driver. “I need to talk to Bob,” she thought. She called him while they were driving back to her hotel. “Bob I need to ask you about something,” she said when he was put on the line. She told him about Marshall and the movie offer. “Let me find out more about it for you. You should not be speaking with those people directly. I’ll let you know if it’s a good deal or not.” She felt better now that the matter was in his hands and not hers.
Seattle reminded Anna of Austin, only colder. It was beautiful and she and Gisella enjoyed the views of massive cruise ships docked so close to the city. Anna wished they had longer than three days in Seattle, but alas, she had a schedule to keep. They flew to Minneapolis next. She did the book signing at the Mall of America. They gave her one hour to sign books, but the line had no end. She felt like she was being a little impersonal in an attempt to get so many people through the line. About forty-five minutes into the signing a mother with her little girl came to the table. The girl was wearing a homemade costume of one of the characters in her book. That made her happy and gave her the strength to make it through the rest of the hour. She finished and then wandered around the mall for a while. She was missing Amalia and Gisella, so she bought them a couple of presents and then called her driver. Back at the hotel, they spent a quiet evening together. The next day she took Gisella and Amalia to the mall because she wanted them to see it. Amalia was in sensory overload and Gisella wasn’t far behind her. They walked through Lego Land, shopped and ate until they were ready for the quiet of the hotel again. “Two more stops, I can do this,” Anna thought as she soaked in a warm bath that night. Kansas City was next and then Chicago. They would fly home from there. Home. It was amazing how much Anna felt at home in Trieste. She had not felt at home in any of the cities she had visited so far. She guessed it was because she had found herself in Italy. Everywhere else just made her curious, but uncomfortable. “Ah, must be my parents DNA at war within me,” she thought as she slipped into her night gown.
Kansas City had more normal mid-western people and she actually found the signing to be a bit boring. The customers looked more like they had to be there instead of wanted to be there. She tried her best to be upbeat and gregarious. It didn’t make much of a difference and she was super glad when the time was up. “This was not my idea,” she said to her life size portrait as she went out the door. Chicago was a little more exciting and she was glad that she would be able to leave on a happy note. The staff was very friendly and brought her drinks and munchies while she was signing. She went to her hotel and announced victoriously, “Gisella, we are done! We can go home! We will have plenty of time before the Mittelciok Chocolate Festival!” Gisella let out a sigh of gratitude. She was as ready to go home as Anna was. The next day they were boarding a plane that would start their journey back home.
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