The Dilemma of Amaltheia Amaranthus

Submitted into Contest #126 in response to: Start or end your story with one or more characters shouting “Happy new year!”... view prompt

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American Fiction Mystery

The Dilemma of Amaltheia Amaranthus

           It was December 26, and Amaltheia Amaranthus was cheerful as she awakened to the warm weather of Christmas in Miami, Florida.

           My little boy will love the shorts set I’ve sent him in Crete, she thought as she walked to the front door for the mail. Picking up a variety of letters, she quickly skimmed through them. She walked to the living room. She stopped when she saw an envelope sent from a hotel. She opened it and sat down to read:

           Miami Hotel

           Miami, Florida

           Dear Amaltheia,

           I’ve been thinking about you. I want to see you. I want to talk to you about you and me

           and the baby.

           I know you haven’t forgotten how I treated you. Maybe we can discuss it.

           Write to me at the above address.

           Jasper

           Amaltheia trembled as she clutched the letter. He didn’t want her. He wanted to know where his son was. He thought she still wanted him because of the child. She fought to control her hammering heart.

           She was nineteen. She loved him the moment she heard him recite poetry in a contest at the college they attended. She listened to his verses; afterward, she told him how much she loved his verse. His dark eyes lavished her Greek beauty. When he asked her to attend an opera and dinner with him, she accepted.

           One day she told him she conceived. To her horror, he frowned. He told her that he couldn’t marry her; he’d fail in his future goals. Furthermore, his parents would disown him. He stared at her. Why hadn’t she been careful, he demanded?

           She stared, speechless. This man was a stranger. Slowly, her shock led to fear, then pain had engulfed her. Shattered, she ran instinctively to her parents. They held her and told her not to worry. They sent her to the island of Crete to a relative. She birthed and nursed her baby, then returned to complete her education.

           Three years later, she was happy. She completed studies in Parapsychology, Literature, and Ancient Greek History. She earned a degree in Business Administration. Later, she worked as an assistant for a successful medium.

           She corresponded with the relative, inquiring the progress and health of her son. She planned to bring him home someday.

           She read the letter again. She furrowed her brow, clutching the letter. She took deep breaths, and finally gained a semblance of rationality. She won’t respond yet. He might try to manipulate her, and it’s important that she have control over the situation. She decided that she wouldn’t bother her parents. She didn’t want them upset. She put the letter back into the envelope. She decided to keep her mind on preparation for a costume party for New Year’s Eve. It’s a wonderful opportunity that they’d asked her to come as a gypsy and tell fortunes. The letter forgotten, she went upstairs and put the letter on her dresser. She dressed, checked her purse for money she needed, and left to purchase a new deck of tarot cards.

           On December 31, a smiling host greeted Amaltheia when she arrived. He led her behind a screened partition where there was a small round table and two chairs. He laughed as he expressed hope that she would not see death on any of his guests. If she did, he was prepared. He handed her a business card of one of the guests, a private investigator. With lively good humor, he told her she could recommend him as he was exceptional. He added that he was giving one to all his guests. He wished her good luck and left.

           Amaltheia took out her crystal ball and tarot cards from her purse and laid them on the table. She sat down and awaited her first guest.

           Her first customer was a tall man dressed as the comic book hero, Dr. Strange. Piercing cool blue eyes appraised her from behind a velvet mask. He smiled. “Hello. I’d like my future told from a beautiful gypsy,” he said.

           Amaltheia Amaranthus had on large gold hooped earrings, and wore a blue, green, and gold silk scarf. Black eyes sparkled as she shifted the tarot cards in her well tapered hands. “What would you like to know,” she murmured.

           “I’d like to know if I’m going to dance with a beautiful gypsy woman tonight?” he asked with a smile.

           She laughed. “Maybe. Let’s see what the cards read.” She shuffled the cards again and placed them in front of him. “Choose three cards,” she said, smiling.

 Huntinger chose three cards, scrutinizing each one with dexterity.

           Amaltheia turned each card around to read them. “The card of your past reads that you have met a woman who will give you useful directions; the card of the present reads that you are responding to a mutual attraction, and the card of the future reads that you will dance with that woman,” She gazed into his eyes. “Would you say that the cards read in your favor”?

           Huntinger smiled. “Indeed, they do,” he said. “What’s your name?”

           “Amaltheia Amaranthus. What is your name?”

           “Edgar Huntinger. May I have a dance when your through,”?

           “Yes,” she said in a soft voice.

           “I’ll be waiting,” he said. He left, her eyes following his tall black and gold caped form.

           Amaltheia Amaranthus thought Edgar Huntinger was mysterious as he was handsome. She knew it was going to be memorable New Year’s Eve. She gathered the cards to prepare for the next guest.

           Finally, Amaltheia saw the last guest. Laughter and music filled the air as she emerged from behind the partition. She saw him immediately, laughing and talking with other guests. She walked toward him.

           He saw her walking toward him. He turned to the person he was speaking to, and briefly said something. He walked toward her, and said, “Dance with me,” as he held her arm and led her through dancing costumed couples. He drew her to him, and they moved to the lively modern music.

           Amaltheia looked up at him. “Did you know that the host is giving out your business cards?’

           Huntinger laughed. “Yes. He said that many of his guests have weighty problems, so it would be gracious to offer my card as an alternative gift. He said that it may bring me business. Does it bother you that I’m an investigator?”

           “No. I think it’s as fascinating as your costume. Your middle name, Nikephoros, is Greek. Are you from Greece?”

           “No. My mother was of Greek descent. My father was English.” He paused. “My mother and I were hit by a car when I was young. It took her life, and I was left with a missing foot.”

           “I’m sorry. I would never have known it. It must be difficult living with a constant reminder of your mother’s death.”

           “My missing foot helps me to deal with my grief. I consider it a just payment for my life without her. My mother’s sister raised me, and she took me to a specialist. He fitted me with the latest in technology. It’s much like a real foot; except it’s made of durable flesh-like plastic. It’s comfortable.”

           “What of your father?”

           “He disappeared when I was an infant. It’s one reason that motivated me to become a private investigator. I intend to search for him someday in memory of my mother[O1] [O2] [O3] .”

Amaltheia shifted in his arms and looked into his smiling eyes. “Soon it will be midnight. Will you come with me for a drink to celebrate the New Year? I’ll tell you all about myself.”

Huntinger gently clasped her closer to himself. “Ah, an echo of my thoughts, Amaltheia. My car is outside. Just direct me.”

The bells clanged and the horns tooted, and laughter filled the air. Edgar smiled and looked down into Amaltheia’s glowing face. “Happy New Year, Amaltheia.”

“Happy New Year, Edgar.”

           Amaltheia lived in an old well-kept grey shingle house in Miami Beach. She put the key into the lock and invited Edgar Huntinger into the living room. He took his mask off, and sat down on a white brocade sofa, and leaned against the matching pillows. Amaltheia smiled as she gazed at Huntinger’s high forehead, and thick black hair brushed neatly behind his ears, framing an aristocratic profile. His eyes appraised her with warmth.

“May I offer you a red or white wine,” she asked?

“Thank you. I’ll have the red.”

She went into the dining room and returned with his drink. She handed it to him and sat beside him. She sipped her white wine.

“Now tell me about yourself, Amaltheia.”

“I was born December 22 from merchant parents. They are in the furniture-making business. They are from the island of Crete of the Greek archipelago. They raised me in their own faith, Greek Orthodox. They named me ‘Amaltheia’ after a flower, but it also means ‘to sooth,’ as they considered me their comfort and their gift.

“I graduated from the University of Florida, and majored in Business Administration, Parapsychology, Literature, and Ancient Greek History. I never wanted for anything; although, my parents taught me values such as gratitude and prudence. She paused. “Edgar, there’s something else you should know about me. I have a child. He’s three years old.”

“That’s interesting. You’re married, then?”

“No. Edgar, it’s such a gift that you are an investigator. Would you mind giving me advise on a problem that I have? It concerns my son.”

“I don’t mind at all. Tell me.” He put his drink down on the heavy wooden table in front of him.

She told him everything. Her voice trembled when she told him about the letter.

“May I see the letter?” Edgar asked.

“Yes.” She put her drink down and left the room. Soon she returned and handed it to him.

He read the letter and turned to her. “You’re right to question it because you’ve not known his whereabouts until now. And you were right to wait until you could obtain advice. Let me know if he contacts you again,” his voice low and comforting. He drew her to him. “You’ve claimed my heart. Let me be a part of your life. My life is dangerous, and for this reason I cannot offer you marriage yet. But if you’ll be mine, I will love you and protect you. And I will offer you engagement as soon as possible.” He pressed his cheek against her wet one. “Why are you crying, Amaltheia? Are my words hurting or disappointing?”

“No. You’ve made me happy. I didn’t dare think that you’d feel anything for me. I loved you the moment I saw your caped figure.” She turned her face and looked at him and smiled.

He brought his face down and kissed her tenderly.

It was January 11, and Amaltheia Amaranthus was cheerful as she awakened to the beautiful weather, and to thoughts of her love. She walked to the front door for the mail. She picked up a variety of correspondence and quickly skimmed through them, as she walked to the dining room. She stopped when she saw a familiar envelope. She tore it open and sat down to read:

Miami Hotel

Miami, Florida

Dear Amaltheia,

I haven’t heard from you. If I don’t hear from you soon, I will try other ways besides letters.

Jasper

Amaltheia’s breathing increased, as she felt panic rising; she forced herself to remain calm, so that she could think. She was certain that he wouldn’t harm her. How could he? She was the mother of his son. She breathed normally at last, as she remembered she had a date with Edgar tomorrow. She’ll tell him; he’ll know what to do.

Amaltheia went upstairs to her bedroom to get her purse. She put the letter inside so she wouldn’t forget.

The next morning, the telephone rang.

“Hello.”

“Amaltheia, did you get my letters?”

“How can you expect me to answer you after what you’ve done…after all this time?”

“Can’t you forgive me?”

“You haven’t given me cause to. You left me. You didn’t want our child.”

“Well, that was a long time ago. I want to see the child. Was it a boy or a girl?”

“A boy,” said Amaltheia, her heart hammering.

“Well, I want to see him.”

“You can’t. He’s far away.”

“Where is he?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Look, Amaltheia, I want to see my son. I won’t stop ‘til I find a way.”

Click.

Amaltheia stood still; the telephone still clutched in her hand. Terror mounted as she realized what he would do to see his son. Trembling, she placed the receiver down. She jabbed her palms to her face, not feeling the pain. She rocked from side to side and moaned. Her thoughts were chaotic, as fear engulfed her. She began to weep. Somewhere in her darkness she thought of Edgar. Her weeping turned to gulps, and at last stopped. She picked up the telephone and dialed.

“Hello, Huntinger.”

“Edgar, help me!”

“Amaltheia, calm down. What’s wrong,” he said in soothing tones.

“Jasper, my son’s father…I got a letter…he called,” she stuttered.

“Tell me from the beginning,” he said gently.

“Yesterday, I received a letter. It was threatening. Just now, he called.”

“Don’t worry, Amaltheia. I expected this. I’ll be right over.”

Amaltheia, comforted, put the telephone back in the cradle, went into the living room, and sat down to await Edgar.

Soon, the doorbell rang. She got up and opened the door. He stood there, dressed in a white tee shirt and jeans, a worried look creasing his face. He came in and clasped her to him, as she wept.

He murmured, “It’s going to be alright, Amaltheia.” He caressed her abundant uncombed hair.

“Can we go somewhere, Edgar?” she murmured.

“Yes. We will go for a drive, and have lunch somewhere, maybe go to the beach, then dinner.”

Comforted, she left his arms and went upstairs. Soon, she returned, dressed in a yellow sleeveless dress and sandals.

They went out.

After a leisurely day enjoying each other’s company, Amaltheia and Edgar entered the house.

“Something doesn’t feel right,” said Amaltheia as she turned the lights on. She crossed the living room, with Edgar behind her.

They hear a sound, like material moving, behind them. Then a mocking voice with confidence dripping like a leaking faucet, spoke.

“Hello, Amaltheia. Who’s the boyfriend?”

She gasped as she turned. Edgar whirled, then was still, his attention riveted.

Jasper Getty’s black hair revealed a receding hairline that disclosed mocking small black eyes. Thin and medium height, he wore a blue quarter length sleeved shirt that hung over black slacks. He faced them in front of the white draped picture window. One hand was behind him.

“Jasper, how did you get in here?” Amaltheia stammered.

“You have no right to be here,” Edgar growled.

Jasper Getty slowly brought his hidden arm in view, disclosing a small black revolver. “I hate to use force, but you gave me no choice. We have a problem to resolve, Amaltheia.”

Swiftly, Edgar sprung. He kicked the gun out of Getty’s hand and delivered a sharp thrust with his artificial foot between his legs. He fell.

Huntinger picked up the gun and pointed it at him. “Get out. You forfeited the right to Amaltheia and her son when you abandoned her. Don’t come near her again.”

Jasper Getty painfully lifted himself from the floor, glared at Amaltheia, and stumbled out the door.

Edgar put the gun down on the table. He turned to Amaltheia and drew her to him. She was crying.

“You’ll be all right now. He won’t bother you again, he murmured.

She leaned against him, enfolded in his warmth and strength.

 [O1]

 [O2]

 [O3]

December 30, 2021 17:22

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