Below is an excerpt that placed her on the path to breeding angelfish:
Vicki could still recall the day she had stumbled upon this new path to her future. Her next-door neighbor had been struggling out of her apartment in Arlington, Virginia with two oversized suitcases. She always seemed to be travelling somewhere, disappearing for months at a time. But in Vicki’s line of work, she knew better than to chat with someone about their whereabouts; it opened the door to them asking about hers. And her career with the CIA was never to be acknowledged.
But on this day, with her resignation submitted and only out-processing left, Vicki had felt brazen.
“Vacation?” she’d asked as she helped her neighbor deposit the suitcases on the sidewalk in front of the building.
“Work.” She pulled out some paperwork. “I’m on my way to Italy.”
“Oh?” Vicki smiled and waited for her to continue.
“It’s a learning experience,” she’d babbled eagerly. “You sign up for a few weeks or months, whatever you want. And you get free room and board in return for work. They teach you all sorts of stuff—how to raise cattle, how to farm, beekeeping…”
And there it had begun. With the simple act of chatting to a neighbor for five brief minutes. Vicki had returned to her apartment with a website address and had spent half the night researching opportunities.
She hadn’t known what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. And still didn’t know. But it was obvious she needed to leave the CIA behind her. And that meant leaving the Washington, D.C. area. Starting fresh someplace else, someplace she knew nothing about.
The prospect had been daunting. Moving to a new town. Finding a place to live. Finding work.
This appeared to take care of all three.
Hosts advertised opportunities on several websites, ranging from office work to farm work and everything in between. It was almost like an apprenticeship, though there was no obligation on either party once the agreed-upon time had expired. They received free labor. She received a new start. And though she held no illusions of entering a new career, it bought her the time needed to rid her psyche of the CIA and its influence while she decided exactly what she did want to do with the rest of her life.
She’d contacted several hosts and in the end, decided upon the opportunity in Lumberton.
The home was owned by an elderly, widowed woman named Laurel Maguire. Nice Irish name, Vicki thought now as she thumbed through the papers.
Laurel Maguire, it turned out, was a successful tropical fish breeder. Her specialty was freshwater angelfish, a beautiful and exotic species. And, Vicki had reasoned, it required no time in the hot sun tilling the soil for organic gardens. No slobbering, ornery cattle. No helpless sheep. Or cantankerous ostrich. No farms miles from nowhere. No rising at dawn to collect eggs or closing barn doors after dusk.
And it wasn’t located in a foreign country where she’d have to get dozens of shots and worry about the latest uprising. It was here, driving distance from her old home and yet a lifetime away.
She took a deep breath and finished off her tea. So this was it. The door to her future lay here, in a cozy little town along the interstate. With a kindly old woman who needed assistance with her fish tanks. Nothing could be simpler or more stress-free.
Of course, the town wasn't as sleepy as she'd imagined and the job wasn't quite what she expected. When she arrives, she finds that Laurel has suffered a stroke and is confined to the third floor of the rambling home. Her nephew, Dylan Maguire, has arrived from Ireland to care for her.
Tune in tomorrow for what happens next!
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