“A wonderful trilogy. I smiled, I cried (a LOT), and adored most of the characters. What a family, not of blood, but of love. I wish there was another book, but the ending, as it is, made my heart swell.” Amazon Review
Excerpt from PIPER DREAMS TRILOGY
I fumbled my phone and just managed to catch it before it fell to the floor.
“Nice save,” Professor Gilmore said in his booming voice. He ran his hand through his hair, making it unrulier, and leaned against the door jamb. He was dressed in a busy, patterned tunic and loose jeans with one of his signature, brightly patterned scarves around his neck. His pale face was heavily lined around his close-set green eyes and mouth. A life truly lived in those lines. He gave me his puckered brow of inquisition though a smile formed on his lips. “Ms. Rowe?” His voice went up an octave.
I forced the smile I had on my face to remain though my heart sank. Did he not remember me? The lectures were large, but I always made sure I sat in the front row and answered questions.
“Yes,” I said then paused to clear my throat. “Piper Rowe.”
“Piper’s in your First Person Journalism class with me,” Matt offered, giving a flash of his sparkling teeth. All but adding to my suspicion that he was one of Gilmore’s chosen ten. He solidified it by saying, “Thanks, Professor Gilmore—I mean Russ. Talk to you soon.”
Russ Gilmore allowed us to call him by his first name, but most of us, including Matt, never used it. The selection must have given him swagger too because now he was giving me all kinds of eye contact—something he hadn’t done since I turned him down for a date during our freshman year. I wasn’t in college for dating. I was here to succeed. That didn’t stop him from spreading a virgin-prude rumor about me around campus afterward. I wasn’t, of course, and a well-planned sexual encounter with an overly chatty communications major and a well-timed and witnessed walk of shame the next day ended his rumor cold. Even my friend Jorge admired my propensity though he disagreed with my execution. But I wasn’t here to deal with Matt.
I turned my attention toward Professor Gilmore. “Our meeting is for a half hour. I suppose we should get started to keep you on schedule.”
Professor Gilmore’s smile wilted. “We’re all right. You’re my last meeting today.” He tilted his head and squinted at me. “Piper … Rowe.” I watched as recognition filled his eyes.
I exhaled and nodded. Finally.
“Did you know Piper and I share a story?” He turned to Matt.
“Is that so, Piper?” Matt asked. His blue eyes shifted between the two of us and he grinned.
I pressed my lips together. Here we go again. No. I wasn’t that kind of a groupie. “Yes. I believe we do. Your Haight Ashbury story,” I prompted.
“Ah, yes,” Professor Gilmore said drawing out the word yes and beaming at me. “Well, as it goes. It was during 1967—the Summer of Love—in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury. I shared the best grass I had ever grown with a busty blonde on Waller Street in hopes of fucking her after we finished. Now, she told me she had to go and help out with her friend, Jerry’s, gig at the Hare Krishna Temple with her old man who was also covering the event. Now I was too horny to just let her go. So I went with her.” Professor Gilmore lifted a brow at Matt, and they shared a guy moment, then he let out a chuckle. “It was that kind of time,” he said to me. Having heard much about my father’s man-whoring ways from my mother, I knew this to be true; though I had the suspicion my mother was just as wild.
“Well, when we got there, her old man was tripping acid so bad he couldn’t cover the event, and she got upset. So I told her I worked for a grassroots magazine and could help them out.” He gave me a smile and a wink. “As it turned out, she was covering the Grateful Dead, and her friend Jerry was none other than Jerry Garcia. My little article got picked up, and the rest is history.”
We both grinned at him. “And what a history,” Matt gushed.
Matt was right though his assessment was an understatement. Russ Gilmore built his career as a rock journalist touring with all the top bands and writing for all the major magazines. He then branched off into a dream career as a global investigative journalist. He traveled and reported on every corner of the world and received the most prestigious Peabody, Murrow, Cronkite awards in international journalism and reporting. He had a long list of honorary degrees. He had been to war and the White House. He broke news that changed the world. He, like my father, had inspired my dreams.
“What does this story have to do with Piper?” Matt asked.
Professor Gilmore’s gaze prodded me to share the rest.
“My mother was the busty blonde, and my father was too high to cover the event,” I said and made noises to follow the laughter from the two of them.
“The point of the story is: opportunities surround us. If you’re not finding them, your eyes are closed. Seize it….” Professor Gilmore said and gestured toward the poster on the door.
“Live it. Write it,” Matt and I said along. After our exchange, he swung his arms for me to go inside his office. I dutifully followed, and he closed the door.
“Take a seat on the couch,” he told me right before I sat in the chair in front of his desk. I moved over and sat down on a small, leather sofa, tucking my legs together in my linen pencil skirt. My heartbeat increased as I watched him move behind his desk to collect a manila folder and pulled up the free chair to sit across from me. He let out a puff of air and handed me a paper. “Something stand out for you there?”
I took the paper. It was my essay. My eyes reviewed the content. I was born in San Francisco, CA, but spent the majority of my childhood in Raleigh, NC. I relocated with my mother to Boston after my parents’ divorce. I sighed and read on. The essay next went into my achievements, my top honors in high school, and my work on the college newspaper and creation of the department newsletter. I turned the page, and the blood drained from my face. The last line read, “Professor Gilmore is a fucking dick.”
My mouth dropped open in horror. “I … I didn’t … I don’t, I don’t know how that got there,” I stuttered. “I apologize for this and accept whatever punishment—”
“Relax,” he interrupted. He gave me a lopsided grin. “You’re not in trouble. If I threw out every student I’ve had for calling me names, there wouldn’t be anyone left to teach. Your essay piqued my curiosity.”
I gulped in air as the blood returned to my face and burned my skin.
“This is an off the record conversation,” he added.
I let go of the air in my lungs. “I had little to no sleep the night before. I took a sleeping pill. I wouldn’t have if I had known we were going to have to write an essay.”
“That’s why I called it a surprise essay,” he said and gave a dry laugh. He flicked his eyes at the paper and then back up to me. “So giving you work makes me a fucking dick?”
I shook my head rapidly. “No. I don’t remember writing it. I’m sorry.”
“This,” he picked up my paper and waved it in the air, “this Piper has guts. Where has she been the last two years?” His brows rose.
My eyes widened and I opened and closed my mouth. “I don’t understand what you mean?”
“What I mean is, this Piper shows anger. Anger is passion. You know, I was actually looking forward to going a few rounds with this Piper.” He let out an exasperated sigh. “But instead, I get the dazed and sorry one.” He shook his head. “I’d encourage you to set up an appointment with your academic advisor to discuss your major because I don’t think you are a good fit for my Advanced Global Journalism program. Good luck, Ms. Rowe.” He handed me my essay, rose, and walked over to his desk and started collecting his things as if he was leaving.
My heart pounded in my chest as my stomach turned over. What in the hell just happened?
“In two years, I never was late for your class. I turned in everything ahead of time. I participated. You even used my work as an example a few times, and now you’re dismissing me from the program because I apologized?”
He spared a pause to say, “I am dismissing you because, frankly, you bore me. I know what you’re thinking. I gave you top marks because writing and reports are excellent. I’ve looked at your class records. You’re pulling almost perfect marks. You’re practically perfect, but as I taught in class, practically perfect only works for Mary Poppins. The students I select have to be more than paper perfect.”
“Call it practically perfect if you want, but I worked my ass off for those grades. I created, organized, and ran the department paper and blog on my nonexistent free time. I think that makes me more than paper-perfect Poppins,” I replied hotly.
A smile broke across his face, and he extended his hands toward me dramatically. “That! Now that’s more personality than I have seen in all the courses you have taken with me. I still have no idea who you are. Do you even know?” he asked, taking his seat again.
I blinked back tears, and he clasped my shoulder. “I didn’t say any of that to hurt you, but I call it like I see it. You write about people, but you leave you out.”
“But a reporter’s job is not to become the news,” I huffed.
He gave me a broad smile and shook his head. “Yes, but you know as well as I know there is much more to it. The best writing is born from passion. It comes from experience and understanding. By the time I was your age, I had helped build a new water filtering system in a small village in India. I’d taken acid and danced all night at an Allman Brothers concert. I protested, marched, and reported on equal rights. Now tell me about what you have done with your—” He took my paper from my hand, scanned the contents of my essay, and looked back up at me, “—your twenty-one years?”
A tear escaped the corner of my eye as I searched my life for the best answer to give him. I knew I didn’t have anything to share. I hadn’t done anything thrilling. I did what I thought was expected of me. I attended all my classes and worked during my summers. I spent last summer at my Aunt Luna’s tree farm in Los Gatos doing data entry and updating her website and Etsy blog. It paid well enough to afford the gaps in my tuition fees and a few luxuries throughout the year. The rest of the time I spent studying and planning. And dreaming. I decided my choices weren’t worth defending, so I wiped my chin and remained silent.
“As you know better than anyone, global journalists put themselves in harm’s way,” He said in a soothing tone. “They take risks. They trek all over the world to places no one wants to go. They sleep on the streets. They go without clean water. This isn’t about money.” His gaze flicked over me. “There are no manicures and designer clothes—”