The California Dreamin’ Amber PAX™ anthology really resonated for me. I couldn’t wait to sign up for it, because just like Montago Melon, the lead character in my story, Twelve-Thirty, I spent most of my life dreaming about living in California. Growing up in Australia, America was an obsession for me. I was hooked on the whole culture of what I perceived to be California. To me, it represented freedom. The music, the movies, the TV shows, even comic-strips like Charlie Brown preached that you could be whatever you wanted to be.
Growing up in my very restrictive family, California wasn’t just my destination, but my state of mind. My mother died when I was six and my two grandmothers raised me and my brothers. I think they couldn’t cope with us kids. I know my dad kept traveling. He couldn’t either. When I was ten, they sent me to Northern California to visit distant relatives and I loved it. I can still remember arriving two weeks before Christmas and how gorgeous all the stores were.
I’d never seen snow before (Australia has wonderful ski country, but I lived in Sydney) and I’d never experienced a white Christmas, since the seasons are the exact opposite in the land down under. My aunt was a district manager for Avon products. She had on hand all kinds of luxury bubble baths and lotions, she drove a huge Cadillac and dressed (to me) like royalty in an elegant suit and fabulous, sweeping winter coats.
That first Christmas was unforgettable. My cousins and I got to shop at a massive department store, the likes of which I’d never seen, and we baked brownies (a novelty for this Sydney kid), and I tried my first peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Christmas, like everything else here was bigger! Better! Brighter! Most of all, there was the sense of adventure and freedom I’d longed for. It was there. Really there.
As I grew older, I saw the other side of the “California Dream.” In fact, within twelve months of my arrival, my aunt was terminated from her job. Like most Americans she was a single paycheck away from poverty. In short order, she lost her home, her car, she had to pull my cousins out of their fancy private school, and then she learned she had breast cancer. She couldn’t afford to be sick here. She had to go back to Australia where there was nationalized medicine, but died after a prolonged battle with the disease.
I look back now on that Christmas and realize she’d pulled out all the stops for us. She wanted me, and my cousins, to have a fantastic Christmas. I have never forgotten it, or her, and the things she wanted for me. I like to think she’s in Heaven with my mum, watching over me, and I hope she knows the child in me will always adore what she did for me. The adult in me is very much like her. I probably spend my money when I should save, and I love Christmas more than is rational.
My years here have been a mixture of blessings. I still feel the freedom, and I still believe in the dream. I have never regretted coming here, and I have never wished any of my experiences away. I am grateful for all of them. Hello lesson, thank you teacher.
Twelve-Thirty is very much a personal story for me, but one that has two men who love each other and find that-- just like old Mamas and the Papas song-- love is always there, it is real, and never-ceasing, just like the clock that always says Twelve-Thirty.
What about you? Have you ever had a dream destination – and followed it? Or, are you planning to? I’d really like to know!
Here is the synopsis of Twelve-Thirty. Please check it out – and leave a comment to qualify to win all five Amber PAX™ California Dreamin’ stories!
Tago Melon has always dreamed of living in California, but when he gets his wish it turns into a great big, bloody nightmare.
Australian-born Montago Melon, Tago to all those who know him, has lived in a fantasy world since he was a kid. His heart is in Hollywood, and his family constantly accuse him of California Dreamin’. When his grandma dies and leaves him money, and his long-last aunt reaches out to him from California to offer him a job, he jumps at the chance of a new life, swimming pools, and movie stars. He soon learns that some dreams come with a nasty after-taste…
Byrne McCallum is California born and bred. Working for the dynamic Ondine Bartholomew in a hot new Hollywood set-salvaging company, he becomes immediately intrigued by Ondine’s latest employee, her naïve but super-smart nephew, Tago. Bad things happen to Tago the moment he lands at LAX, but Byrne plans to change the guy’s run of luck. He hasn’t felt this way about a man in a long time. Can they make a go of things? Can they have a Hollywood ending?
Twelve-Thirty by A.J. Llewellyn is now available at Amber Allure.
If you'd like the chance to win the entire pax collection, just leave a comment on today's post. On Saturday, a winner will be picked at random from all the comments made this week on the blog. Comment on all, and that's multiple chances to win!