Music From Beyond the Moon

Music From Beyond the Moon
Augusta Trobaugh

April 2012 $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-124-1

She became his soul mate and first love, but can they escape a destiny that was decided before they were born?

Our PriceUS$14.95
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

"A writer of extraordinary talent and skill.” BOOKLIST

She became his soul mate and first love, but can they escape a destiny that was decided before either one of them was born?

In 1920’s Florida, an abandoned baby boy grows up under a cloud of mystery, adopted by two strong southern women who try to protect him from his family’s secrets and heartaches. But even their best intentions and deepest devotion can’t hide the truth forever or soften the fate that faces both him and the girl he loves.

Augusta Trobaugh’s unforgettable novel speaks of loyalty, loss, the difficult choices we make in the name of family, and of courageous hope, each inspired by the fragile and painfully longing music of life, a song that seems to come from beyond the moon.


"A riveting tale about…what people will do for love, for family, and otherwise. The real meaning of family and love is shown in this book. I was captured from beginning to end ..." -- Jennifer Pittman; A Page at a Time Blog


Chapter One

1924, Love-Oak, Florida

Dawn had not yet arrived, but the rain had ended and the eastern sky turned a fragile, golden pink. The clouds moved away, revealing a moon still hanging in the sky and casting a silver sheen across the quiet lake.

All night, the storm lashed the land, shredding the palm fronds and blowing water from the lake up onto the sandy road. But now, a new dawn had come, and the storm was gone, leaving the earth fresh scrubbed and chastised.

In the deep brush of palmettos behind the main house of the old fishing camp, the air was still thick with the breath of heavy rain, and from time to time the soft cries of a night bird pierced the moist silence—perhaps an owl perched high in a water oak, grateful for the end of the storm and watching intently for a tender mouse-morsel to scurry from the sanctuary of the flooded palmetto fronds below.

Tree frogs pulsated the air with their mesmerizing thrumming, and water lapped in the estuary as the tide changed. From a distance, a bull alligator bellowed three times in quick succession and then fell silent. Closer, another sound, only softer—a newborn baby whimpering in troubled slumber.

Moonlight filtered through the Spanish moss that hung from the rain-soaked limbs of ancient water oaks and decorated the side of the old house in random, ghostly shades of silver. Where the paint had long ago peeled away, specks of weathered wood showed through, and the screen door to the long back porch hung slightly off-center, as if balancing against the tilt of the house on its concrete block foundation

At the base of a silvery-trunked cypress tree off to the side of the house, a child, a small boy—barely a toddler—sat with his knees drawn up under his chin, his eyes wide, watching for anything that might come at him from out of the damp darkness.

The woman had put him at the base of the tree, pressing down on his shoulders and shaking him slightly. "You stay right there. You hear me? Don’t you move a single inch! And yes, I know the ground is wet. But you just do as I say.”

She lifted her hands from his shoulders and taking a biscuit from a paper sack she had carried inside of her blouse, she pressed the biscuit into his hand and then walked away from him toward the house, reluctance slowing her steps. He watched as the pale triangle of her skirt disappeared behind the house.

"You stay right there, you hear me?” she repeated over her shoulder, but in a softer voice, almost a voice that said "goodbye,” but without the words. "You be a sweet boy, honey.” Her golden-honey-toned words melted away into the darkness beyond the palm fronds and the tall grasses.

While his eyes clung to the swinging skirt as it moved away, a noise in the palmetto bushes startled him, making him want to cry out for the departing figure. But he knew the storm was gone, the rain and wind had stopped, and she had said for him to be quiet, so he made not a sound, not even when, from among the dripping palmetto fronds, he saw deeply tanned hands—big hands!—separating the fronds, followed by a face—but not the face of any monster he had ever dreamed in his short, nonverbal life. This face had eyes that were soft but black and almost lifeless—the watchful eyes of a hungry alligator? And a hooked nose above a stern mouth. In the wet, black hair, a single white egret feather. No doubt whatsoever in his childish mind. He knew this creature, a beautiful, magical creature from the stories he had heard. He wanted to cry out to the face, but the cry caught in his throat, and he remained silent.

Instead, the boy listened as the woman’s departing footsteps ceased and her knuckles rapped loudly on the screen door of the house. At the same time, the creature-face disappeared, moving backwards silently and finally dissolving into the poisonous black-green of the undergrowth. From nearby came the low, throaty growl of a panther, but not a growl to threaten—more of a sound coming from deep in the massive chest to comfort and to say, "I am here, and I will not leave you.”

The woman’s knock on the leaning screen door of the old house was the last thing the boy heard, because in spite of the sadness of watching the woman walk away from him and the surprise of seeing the magical creature in the brush and the feeling of the wet, wild grasses against his skin and hearing the soft growl of the panther—despite all of these things, the heaviness of his eyelids became too much to bear. His body softened slowly, and he relaxed against the base of the tree, still watching for the beautiful creature-face in the palmettos and with the panther speaking its comforting growl. So he remained where the woman had put him and told him to stay, and despite everything, he drifted away into a deep, sweet sleep and into dreams where the creature-face smiled at him and the panther’s growl was a peaceful lullaby, and where the grass and the trees were soft and dry. And for the rest of the night before that dawn, he did not awaken. Not even when he dreamed human voices, one so familiar and another so foreign to him, and a flashlight beam that came wavering toward him from the back of the house. Not even when strange, trembling arms lifted him out of the wet grass and carried him away. Not even when the biscuit dropped from his uncurled fingers and rolled away into the underbrush.



Chapter Two

"We can bathe him after a while,” a voice said. "Let him sleep for now.”

"What we should have done—is cleaned him up right away and put something on all those mosquito bites. Calamine lotion,” another voice said, and both were women’s voices. "Makes me sick, that does! That baby so filthy and all those nasty old bites on his legs.”

"Let him sleep,” the other one admonished. "We’ll have plenty of time to clean him up, but sleep’s the best thing right now. Doc said so, and he ought to know.”

"But he needs something to eat,” the other protested. "Looks like he’s been starved half to death. And that diaper! Goodness!”

"I know. It smells just awful, but it sure doesn’t seem to be bothering him.” A long hesitation then and the other woman saying, "Maybe he’s used to it being that way.” Another hesitation and then the finalizing words, "Doesn’t matter right now. Doc said let him sleep. You just go on in the kitchen and put on a pot of grits. This child will be hungry when he wakes up, and we can get that nasty diaper off and give this baby a good scrubbing.”

"What I don’t understand is why Doc didn’t come right on over here, when we called him and told him we had a little child some woman just walked off and left in our yard!”

"He has his reasons, I’m sure. Maybe he’s gone out looking for the mother.”

"Almost scared me to death! That knocking on the door before good daylight even, and us seeing that poor woman, and her pointing to the tree where we found this baby. And then us trying to ask her about it, and her simply disappearing into thin air!”

"Well, we’ll hear from Doc soon enough, I expect. But in the meantime, we have to take care of him.”

"I think he needs a big dose of castor oil, right off the bat,” the other one exclaimed. "Needs a good dose to get him all cleaned out.”

"No castor oil!” The words were whispered in an angry manner. "That’s always your answer to everything, and I’ll not stand by and see you torture this precious little thing with it. No need to ‘clean him out,’ because maybe he hasn’t had anything to eat in a long time. Leastwise, that’s the way it looks. So you just go tend to those grits, like I told you to.”

"And why do we keep calling it him, is what I want to know.”

"Well, we don’t know, but it sure looks like a him.

"You gonna look in that diaper to see for sure?”

"No! We’ll just leave it alone until we get a bath all fixed. It’s too nasty to look, until we can take it all the way off. Now please go on and fix those grits.”

Following the whispered fuss between the two women, the child sensed footsteps retreating and heard a mild and fading grumbling. A door closed softly, and only then did he open his eyes.

The room was dim, despite the fullness of the sunlight on the other side of the drawn shade, and the one finger of sunlight that came through the side of the shade held the promise of a hot summer day ahead. He sat up, rubbing his eyes and searching for the skirt he had watched disappear into the dark. Trying to reach for it, press his face into it.

But there was no skirt. He had not stayed where she told him to stay, so maybe that’s why he couldn’t find the skirt. Tears, far warmer than the long finger of sunlight, tried to come, but he choked, swallowed, pushed the tears away, and made not a sound.

As if she had heard his silent cry, one of the women came back into the room. She was short and round and wore a white chenille bathrobe with a huge peacock woven into the front—a gold, green and blue peacock with a rich crown of delicate feathers on its head. In fact, the peacock seemed to mirror the woman herself, because her head was covered in fine, golden curls, each one a perfect corkscrew. Her curls didn’t stand up as high as the peacock feathers, but they bounced and quivered as she came across the room to the bed where the boy was lying. She gazed at him with sad blue eyes, the curls bobbing softly, then she moved forward, gathering him into her arms. He pushed against her, but she held him, and still, he made not a sound. But, in a breath that was little more than a stifled sob, he inhaled her scent—talcum powder and some aroma like lemons. Or watermelon. And from the soft curls came a perfume he had never known before. Later, he would learn that it was lavender.

Her warm, tender body held him and rocked from side to side, in sadness, in comfort.

Again, he pushed against her, but not quite as hard, and she simply gathered him back, pressing him into her soft warmth.

"There, there,” she crooned, rocking him back and forth. "You’re all right, honey. Don’t you cry now. Fiona’s here, baby. Fiona’s gonna make everything all right. And Glory’s here too, so—you poor, nasty, smelly little thing—don’t you fret! Fiona’s here. Glory’s here.” The words he didn’t understand had the hush of a benediction.

"Glory!” she called over her shoulder. "Put on the kettle and get that washtub ready. We’re gonna wash this child.” To the child, she added softly, "Can’t abide the smell of you another minute, little one!”

When the large, galvanized tub had been put onto the screen porch and half filled with water, Glory lifted the huge kettle from the stove, and using her apron as a protection against the hot handle, she poured the steaming water into the cold water in the tub and swished her hand through it, to check its temperature.

Fiona carried the child to the porch, holding him so that he was mashed securely against the garish peacock on her ample bosom. "That’s good,” Glory pronounced, wiping her wet hand on her apron. The child stood silently while Fiona and Glory started peeling the dirty clothes from him, tugging the dirty shirt over his head and bending his nose in the process. But still, he made not a sound. When they came to the diaper, they struggled against the terrible smell and discovered, to their dismay, that the soiled fabric was firmly adhered to his skin in the back. Discreetly, Glory lifted the front of the diaper away from the child’s bulging stomach and peered into it. "Boy,” she pronounced. "But we already figured that anyway.” Fiona made a few tugs at the stuck fabric in the back of the diaper, bringing forth the first sound he had made—a low whine of anguish.

"Lord have mercy! We’ll have to soak this off him,” Glory pronounced, and the boy looked at her closely, as if he agreed. He studied her dark face—far darker than the face he had seen in the bushes—and breathed in the musky aroma of her body. Her black skin was shining with perspiration as she bent over the tub of water that was to be his bath. Then he studied Fiona again, as well, the pale skin and blonde, corkscrew curls and the faint aroma of lemons from her hands. Silently, those hands lifted him into the warm, soapy water, and while Glory sponged his arms and shoulders, he studied her face—how the whites of her eyes were the color of coffee with milk in it—the way his mama liked her own coffee. Studying Glory’s face, he could also see his mama’s face as she bent over a steaming cup, blowing into it, and smiling at him.

"It’s too hot, honey,” he heard her golden voice say.

"Hot!” he repeated.

"No, honey,” Fiona soothed him. "It’s not too hot. We wouldn’t put you into a tub if the water was too hot.” Still, Glory reached down and swept her fingers through the water, just to make sure that the boy didn’t have a valid complaint.

"It’s just right,” Glory pronounced, satisfied. So while the boy soaked in the tub of warm water, Fiona began slowly prying the filthy, dried diaper from his tender skin, bit by bit. Once it was off, she dropped it, dripping, into a trashcan and lifted him out of the tub.

"We have to get some fresh water now. Start all over again.”

So they wrapped the child in a towel and dumped the bath water right out onto the floor, where it streamed off under the banisters and fell into the hydrangea bushes surrounding the porch. Glory poured in fresh water and added another large kettle of steaming hot water from the stove. Again, she swished her hand through it.

"That’s good,” Glory said, and Fiona removed the towel and deposited the child back into the tub. From there, the two women soaped down every inch of him, rubbing his soft skin with their warm hands, scrubbing his matted hair softly with their fingernails, soaping his arms and bloated stomach, cleaning him all the way to the pink toes and the bottoms of his feet, concentrating especially on the grime behind his ears and on the back of his neck and the tender, reddened skin where the diaper had been. And the whole time they bathed him, they murmured rough words of anger at first and glanced at each other, clucking their tongues. Finally, the clucking stopped, and their words became soft and comforting, little whispers that were almost like small songs. They even smiled a little.

"Well, what a handsome little fellow!” Fiona exclaimed. "Who would have thought his hair would be so blonde under all that dirt?” Once again, she lifted him from the tub, and Glory wrapped a clean towel around him.

"What’re we gonna use for clothes to put him in?” Glory asked, with irritation in her voice. "Can’t just let him run around wearing a towel, for Heaven’s sake! And what’re we gonna use for a diaper?”

"I think he’s ’most too big for diapers,” Fiona mused. "But I’m not sure. We better tear up an old sheet and use that anyway.”

"We still got some of Mr. J. Roy’s old shirts in the closet,” Glory added. "Those’ll do for clothes ’til we can get him something better. At least he’ll be clean and dry.”

"Yes,” Fiona agreed. "Somebody might as well get some use out of them.” And all the time they were talking, Fiona was rubbing down the small, pink body with a clean towel, and then she got a bottle of hand lotion from her dresser and rubbed the lotion all over him, right up into the edges of his hair, where his neck and ears were bright pink from being scrubbed, and on the reddened bottom where they had peeled away the diaper. The lotion felt smooth and silken on his tender skin, and he liked the aroma of it, the softest perfume-and-soap aroma and the lavender he’d smelled in Fiona’s hair. He rubbed his hands over the lotion she had smoothed on his distended stomach and smelled his fingers.

"Feel lots better, don’t you?” Fiona asked. "Tell you one thing, you sure do smell better.” But the child had already forgotten about the glorious scent of the lotion and was gazing through the screen door toward the back yard. He lifted one hand and pointed to the yard, whining softly. Fiona and Glory watched him silently. Then Fiona acknowledged his meaning. "I know. I know,” she crooned. "You want to go look for her, I reckon, but she isn’t there, honey. She isn’t there.”

Glory spoke up. "You gotta say it so he can understand. You gotta say, ‘She’s gone bye-bye.’”

"She’s gone bye-bye,” Fiona repeated, and the child moved his eyes from the door and gazed at her with a solemn expression.

"That’s right,” Fiona said. "Gone bye-bye, honey. So you stay here with us, okay? She’ll come back. You just be good and patient, and she’ll come back.”

"You ought not to tell him that,” Glory whispered. "We don’t know that for sure.”

"It’s okay,” Fiona assured her, but Glory clucked her tongue in disagreement. Then she sighed. "I’ll go get one of them shirts,” she said. "And calamine lotion for the mosquito bites.”

"See?” Fiona said to the child. "It’s going to be all right!” Her voice was bright and musical, as if she were reading a fairy tale to him. He glanced once more toward the screened door and then heaved a small sigh, as if he had finally given in to her words.

They dabbed calamine lotion on the mosquito bites on his legs and arms and then diapered the boy in part of a torn sheet, fastening the makeshift diaper with safety pins.

"Better try to find something like rubber pants to go over that diaper,” Glory suggested. "Else, the minute he wets, everything he’s got on gonna be wet, too.”

"We need to make a list of things,” Fiona said. "So we can go in town in a little bit and get whatever we need. But of course, we don’t know how long we’ll have him here with us, so we don’t want to spend too much.”

"One of us better go and one stay here with him, leastwise until we get some of them rubber pants,” Glory said, and Fiona nodded in agreement. In the meantime, Glory had brought a soft old shirt from the closet, and when Fiona shook it out from its folds, she caught—for the least little moment—the faintest aroma of J. Roy’s shaving soap. Funny that his smell should still be in this shirt, despite it being washed and put away for so many years! she thought, but she said nothing. Strangely, she felt her eyes fill up, but she didn’t know whether it was because of J. Roy’s aroma still on the old shirt or whether she was feeling the sheer joy of taking such a pitiful little boy, cleaning him up, and putting him into fresh clothes. Regardless, she blinked away the tears that threatened to come, put the man-sized shirt on the child, rolled up the sleeves until his small hands appeared and then buttoned the front, which went all the way down to his toes.

"Well. That’s all we can do for now,” Fiona sighed. "Now let’s get some good food into him. Lord only knows when he last had something to eat. ’Cause no telling where his mama came from, but not from around here, that’s for sure. And no telling how long she’d been traveling. A long way, I should think, from the looks of her. And out in that awful storm, to boot.”

The women both remembered again the thin, rain-soaked woman who had knocked on their back door long before dawn. Remembered her anguished face and heard her whispered words, "I’m sorry to bother you folks so early.” That was absolutely every word she said, but then she had pointed toward the tree and put her hand over her mouth, as if to stop herself from speaking further.

While Glory stood at the screen door, with the porch light shining behind her, Fiona picked her way across the yard and found the child asleep. When she turned to ask the woman what was going on, the woman was gone.

"Where’d she go?” Fiona called to Glory.

"Don’t know,” Glory hollered back. "Didn’t see her go. Just disappeared!” And then Fiona had gathered up the child, surprised at the weight of so fragile-looking a little thing, and carried him into the house. Time to find out what this is all about later, she thought to herself, because her entire attention was turned to the child who was in such an obviously miserable condition. While Glory held the door open, Fiona carried him inside and put him on her own bed, where he mumbled and turned onto his side, his small mouth making slight sucking sounds in his sleep. Fiona pulled a cotton quilt over him, over the filth and the wet clothes, as well. And immediately, they phoned Doc—the only person they knew to call—and he said for them to let the child sleep, and he would come by to see him as soon as he could. In the meantime, Doc would see if he could find out anything about the mother.

"Grits are probably done by now,” Glory said, breaking the reverie of memory for them both. "They’ll be easy on his stomach, and a soft scrambled egg will be good, as well. But I still say a good dose of castor oil would do him just right.”

"Forget that, Glory. I simply won’t permit it.”

"Well. Don’t you go blaming me if he gets so stopped up he ends up with a fever.”

"He won’t.”

"Won’t get stopped up?”

"Won’t get stopped up or get a fever.”

All this time, the child looked from one to the other of the women, looked not with the typical curiosity one would expect, but with a calm, reassured expression, as if he knew, despite their fussing with each other, knew in some strange, nonverbal way that those strange women had been right. Everything was going to be okay.

What he didn’t know—couldn’t know, at his tender age—was that his vision of the skirt would fade away so quickly, and that he would not consciously think of it again. But he also didn’t know that deep in his heart, where he couldn’t see it or even know it was there—or that it wasn’t—something was gone, and that nothing would ever be the same again.


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