TITLE: Maiden's Veil
GENRE: Contemporary women's fiction
Racing through arroyos and barreling down slopes, the wind caught the Barlow family by surprise. The mother and eldest daughter ran from picnic table to fire pit to camper, stashing the lawn chairs inside, battening down the awning that flapped like gunshot, chasing paper plates and cups and napkins that flushed like startled quail. The two boys and their father stood apart, tying handkerchiefs bandit-style across noses and mouths, determined to carry out their annual hunt for potsherds and arrowheads left by the Chemehuevi people who, centuries ago, grappled with the same forceful gusts. No one took notice of Jessamine. The age gap between the twelve-year-old and her older siblings was enough that the three now dismissed their youngest sister, or if not, teased her ruthlessly, calling her 'changeling' for the genetic anomaly, one blue eye and one brown eye, that had emerged after many latent years from their mother's side of the family.
Undeterred by the blowing sand, Jess escaped into the Joshua Tree desert, deer-running along the dusty creek beds, darting around boulders and creosote bushes and the contorted branches of manzanita. The gusts set aloft her long reddish-brown hair, whipped her thin gym shorts and T-shirt against her limbs, brought the resinous scent of the chaparral to her tongue, diffused the escalating heat.
Approaching a tall rise, Jess climbed, brushing past translucent ghost flowers and silvery sage, scrabbling over talus and sliding on scree.