Norah’s Oak (Free First Chapter)

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Norah’s Oak – Chapter 1

Norah studied rocks. To focus on one certain rock for most of one’s career, Stone Mountain, Georgia was not such a bad place. Years ago, she considered settling near El Capitan in California since it is the tallest monolith at over 3000 ft. But Stone Mountain is a nice manageable ‘rock’ that can be observed, climbed easily, enjoyed and studied while living in a thriving metropolis, Atlanta-Land. At least that’s what her husband had called it when they moved there in 1987. He was right. Then he died, in a car accident, and left her alone in a new city, at just 22 years of age.

They were happening less, but for at least ten years she had dreams of the accident. Most would call them nightmares, as she did for so long, until she realized that she had to accept them in her life and just refer to them as dreams. Once she started that, they gradually faded away until now she hardly ever has them.

But the dream is always the same. She relives the day each time. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, she and her husband get in the car to drive on I-285 to a friend’s wedding reception. They were so excited about their new friends in their new surroundings and the joy of their future. She loved to sit sideways on the passenger side and watch her husband as he drove. She would ask him questions about any subject and thrill at the way he answered while focusing on his driving. His profile was etched in her mind even now, although she had trouble remembering all the details of his face after so many years.

As they traveled along the three-lane highway at speeds that seemed to average 75 mph, Norah never was fearful because he was such a safe driver. He stayed safe distances behind other cars and liked to cruise with the flow of the other traffic, rarely passing aggressively. They never saw it coming and she did not find out what happened until weeks later when she read about it.

Apparently, some idiot had been drinking and felt the need to drive. Amazingly, they got onto the interstate going the wrong direction. Sinfully, they never hit anyone as they wove through traffic coming at them for nearly 3 miles. That car caused the accidents but was not impacted at all. It was the sudden stop of numerous cars and trucks as they swerved to avoid the drunk driver. In Norah and her husband’s lane, the trucks made synchronized sudden stops as they saw the out of place alcoholic. Norah had just made her husband laugh and look away when, with no squeal of brakes, their car slammed into the back and under the trailor of the semi in front of them.

It was instant death for her husband, but Norah was miraculously saved with only bruises and a broken rib. From then on, she would believe in God and thank Him for the rest of her life. As weeks passed she felt she should be mad, angry, depressed and hostile about what she lost. But she soon felt a sense of calm that she was protected in such a horrendous wreck. She believed there must be a purpose for her life and she would seek it out and pay back her debt for being rescued from the jaws of death.

She also thought that if God was watching over her so closely, she better behave. She committed to that as well. There she was, a widow, young and beautiful, a student with enough insurance money to complete an education, buy a home and somehow handle the loneliness. All Norah could do was try to make a life for herself so she thrust herself into her career spending countless hours each day doing research and writing her findings.

In eight years she had earned her degrees, published three articles and had formulated the outline for a book that got picked up by a publisher of science books, Williams & Wilkins. It did not sell much as it was more a textbook of research and geologists were limited in numbers but it did earn her a lot of credit in her field. Some of the theories she put forth about plate tectonics in geology were popular with those in the profession and even a limited public who found the field fascinating. The idea of predicting earthquakes was especially interesting to those in high-risk zones but her theory that continental movements could happen in much shorter time frames then previously thought was considered radical in the 1990’s.

But Norah Linsky was not your typical geologist. Yes, she wore glasses on occasion, but they were attractive ones and she dressed with class and style using colors and combinations that accented her beauty. Norah had dark brown hair and clear blue eyes, she stood regally at 5’9” and had a figure that continually got gazes from men, and women for that matter, of all ages. She walked with grace and dignity expressing confidence in every step and every word, even though deep inside she had doubts about her beauty, her intelligence and her personality.

Originally from New Jersey, Norah never really carried that accent so common to ‘Jersey Girls.’ She had a much more neutral accent that made it hard for people to guess where she was from. Unless people picked up on the few words that gave it away; wooder for ‘water,’ yew for ‘you,’ fer in place of ‘for’; most never would guess that she was from close to the Jersey Shore. The Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey were where her roots were and she still carried a slight draw on those words and a few others. Many would guess Philadelphia, some Ohio, some Maryland, but never New York or Newark. She had grown up far enough away from the suburbs of New York City not to be mistaken for those ‘exits’ off the turnpike.

Norah had been raised Catholic, attending a Catholic school in Vineland, just 30 miles west of Atlantic City. Growing up, she loved the outdoors and constantly explored the flatlands of New Jersey’s overlooked acres of pine trees and swamplands long ago dried up and left for new growth. It baffled Norah how often she would find seashells and remnants of the ocean so far from the coast. 30 miles seemed like a vast distance when she was young. Now she realized that New Jersey was like a barrier island in the grand picture of things. It was no surprise to find remnants of the ocean this far inland, it just had been many generations, maybe even many thousands of generations since the waters had receded to the now white sandy shoreline of Sea Isle City, Ocean City, Avalon, Stone Harbor, Wildwood, Cape May Courthouse, etc. Those names were not even a thought when the water reached this far inland. It was unlikely English was even a language at that time.

It was this type of dreaming and thinking that sent Norah to college to study the earth sciences. Now, after a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a doctorate at different universities, Norah saw the world as a bigger picture than just the Jersey Shore. She was leading the thinking about what moved the oceans or what moved the landmasses or how long before the next great shift of continents would happen. Now she was an authority in her field and people looked at her with interest and people looked up to her for understanding. She was a teacher at Georgia State University in Atlanta and an author of a geology textbook and articles on tectonic plates and earth history and earth science. She wasn’t just a sex object anymore.

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