TO CATCH A DREAM
March 9, 2020
York Times bestselling
author of the worldwide phenomenon Calendar Girl series brings
readers a poignant and honest look at life’s most complicated
When their mother passed away, Evie Ross and
her sister were each given a stack of letters, one to be opened every
year on their birthday; letters their free-spirited mother hoped
would inspire and guide them through adulthood. But although Evie has
made a successful career, her desire for the stability and security
she never had from her parents has meant she’s never experienced
the best life has to offer. But the discovery of more letters hidden
in a safe-deposit box points to secrets her mother held close, and
possibly a new way for Evie to think about her family, her heart and
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track down my face as Tahsuda, my Toko, which is the Comanche
word for “grandfather,” hands me a large stack of pink envelopes
tied with a ribbon. My mother’s beautiful handwriting is visible on
the top. He hands another stack to my eighteen-year-old sister, Suda
my Catori, for her Taabe and Huutsuu,” he begins,
using the Comanche nicknames my mother gave us. “To have a piece of
her on their birthdays. One for today, and one for each birthday and
important moment in your life to come. I shall leave you to your
peace but know I am here for you, forevermore.” Tahsuda puts his
hands together under his worn red-and-black poncho and nods his head
forward. His long, silky black hair gleams a dark midnight blue in
the rays of the sunlight that streak through our bedroom window. His
hair is so much like my mother’s I have to swallow down the sob
that aches to come out in a flood of misery and grief.
because I am so angry at her for all the time we could have had
together. Grief because she left this world six months ago, and
today, on my twentieth birthday and Suda Kaye’s eighteenth, we are
facing our entire lives without her. This wasn’t another one of her
many adventures. We’d grown used to the routine. She’d skip
around the house, packing her battered suitcase while she told us all
about what she hoped to see and do on her travels. While she
fluttered around the globe, we stayed behind and went to school,
dropped off for an undetermined amount of time at the reservation
where our grandfather lived. Months later, with a smile on her face
and a song in her heart, she’d reenter our lives as though she’d
never even left.
least she’d come back.
much as I hated our mother’s wanderlust, I always knew eventually
she’d find her way home. Her weary feet would be tired, and she’d
come dancing into Toko’s home with grand tales about a world
I didn’t ever care to see. I didn’t want to go anywhere that made
me up and leave my family for months on end. Them always wondering
where I was, who I was with and whether or not I was okay.
way. That was not me. And it never would be.
finger the ribbon on the stack of envelopes and take mine to the
papasan chair in the corner of our shared room. Suda Kaye stretches
out on her twin bed. We live in a two-bedroom apartment in Pueblo.
Suda Kaye has just graduated high school. I attend the local
one thing Catori Ross never imagined could happen to her was illness.
In all her plans to travel the globe, to experience absolutely
everything she could, she didn’t factor in time to get regular
checkups. Since she didn’t tend to get sick, Mom hadn’t been to a
doctor in a solid decade before she started to feel unwell. After
three solid months of lethargy and depression—two things our mother
never was— the first round of tests gave us the first blow.
believed with her whole heart that she could beat it, but as Toko
says, cancer took both his wife and his daughter. He says it was
written in the stars. That was the reason he never gave Mom hell
about her traveling and leaving us with him. He always said a person
must do what their heart wants. Dreams are not only for the sleeping.
They are meant to be chased and caught.
Our mother lived. Chased every dream with a hunger that could never
be quenched. I fear my sister will do the same.
Kaye sits against her headboard as I cuddle into the chair. I untie
the ribbon and then set all but the top letter to the side. The first
envelope has today’s date on it and her nickname for me. Taabe,
which means “sun” in Comanche. Mom called me her sun because I am
light everywhere, while she and my sister were dark. Mom was
full-blooded Native American like Toko. Suda Kaye and I are
half, and we each have different fathers. I got a lot of my coloring
from my father, Adam Ross. Like Dad, my hair is golden blond and I
have his ice-blue eyes. Though my high cheekbones, the shape of my
eyes and my full lips are my mother’s. Suda Kaye has dark,
espresso-colored hair, amber eyes and will one day have a knockout
figure. She already is growing into her womanly hourglass shape—full
bosom, long legs and rounded hips. Me, I have the tall, lanky,
athletic build. Still, there is no denying our heritage even with the
play on light and dark in our coloring.
are Catori’s daughters, a vibrant mix of her and our biological
fathers. Though Suda Kaye and I don’t know much about her real dad.
We just know what Mom told us much later in life—that she had made
a mistake. She and her husband—my father, Adam—had been going
through a rough time and separated for a year. In that year she’d
gone on an adventure and come back pregnant with my sister. I was
only two when she was born so none of that had ever mattered to me
one way or the other. My father treated Suda Kaye mostly the same,
which also didn’t matter because he wasn’t around much, either,
always deployed someplace far away.
thumb the envelope and run my fingers across her pretty handwriting.
miss you, Mom.
a full deep breath, I ease back against my chair and open the first
my golden Taabe,
in a million years did I think I’d be in this situation. Gone from
you and your sister in a way that I cannot come back from. I know
you’ve always hated my need to wander, as it took me away from you
and Suda Kaye, but you were never far from my mind or my heart. Never
had to chase my dreams, Taabe. One day, you’ll understand.
My greatest hope is that you know my love for you transcends any
reality, location or final destination. It is as the sun, shining
brightly each day. Never ending, always warm, forever shedding light
onto you and your sister.
me gone, without the burden of having to take care of me and Suda
Kaye, I want you to think long and hard about what it is you want in
life. Just you. Think big. Live out loud.
is still out there to explore?
in the world do you see yourself visiting? What new journey have you
wished to undertake?
of all the beauty I’ve shared through my stories and photos over
the years. Those experiences are a huge part of me. And I’m so
grateful I had them. It gave me the ability to open your eyes to the
fact that anything in life is possible.
only regret was having to leave you and your sister behind. Though I
hope now, you will take time out for yourself.
Evie, you are so grounded. Your feet firmly rooted to God’s
green earth. Pull those roots, my lovely girl. Break away from all
that keeps you still and give yourself an experience unlike any
other. Perhaps then you will understand my need to go, to feel the
wind in my hair, the sand between my toes, the gravel under my boots.
I lived every moment to the fullest and I want that for you so
Please take the inheritance I left you and use it to live.
the world, my precious girl.
all my love,
grind down on my teeth and wipe my nose with the back of my hand. I
fold my letter into thirds and stuff it back into the envelope.
Clearing my throat, I flatten my hand along the front before lifting
it to my nose and inhaling the familiar scent of citrus with a hint
“Smells like her.” I clear my throat as a traitorous tear slides
down my cheek.
Kaye sniffs her letter and smiles sadly. “Mom always said if you’re
going to smell like anything, let it be natural. Fruit and spice.”
everything nice!” I chuckle, then sigh as the weight of everything
in my letter festers in my heart and soul, mixing with the intense
sorrow I haven’t shaken off in the six months since she passed.
miss her. Sometimes I pretend she’s just gone off on another one of
her adventures, you know? Then I can be pissed off and plan out all
the catty things I’m going to say to her when she finally returns
with a suitcase full of dirty clothes and presents to smooth over the
sister gasps and her stunning amber eyes fill with more tears. “Evie,
she didn’t want to leave…”
fist my hands, rekindling the anger that never seems to disappear
when I think of all the years we might have had with her. “Not this
time, Kaye, but what about all the other times? Years and years of
time lost. And for what?” I huff and stand, pacing our small room
with Mom’s letters plastered to my chest like a well-loved teddy
bear. “Fun. Wild experiences. Adventures! It killed her. This need
to see the greener grass on the other side.” Scowling, I point at
myself. “Well, that won’t be me. No way. No how. I’ve got my
feet firmly planted on terra firma. I’m going to finish school, get
my bachelor’s in finance, then my master’s, and make something of
myself. And I’m going to be happy!”
I’m going to be happy without my mother in my life, I don’t know.
I never knew how to fill the hole she left with each adventure she
took. It just seemed that the void got bigger and bigger. But my
mother…she was such a glorious woman, an incredible presence when
she was there. She could easily fill up that gaping wound that I call
my heart each and every time she came back.
that the pacing isn’t doing much, I toss my stack of letters onto
the chair and drop onto the bed next to Kaye, face planted
dramatically in the crook of my arms, my nose touching the mattress
as I breathe deeply and try my best not to break down in front of my
she strokes my hair in long, soothing sweeps of her hand. Once I’ve
gotten myself under control emotionally—for now, that is—I turn
did your letter say?” I ask. Kaye licks her lips and glances away.
We don’t have any secrets from one another, but I can tell this is
one she’d rather keep from me. Eventually she caves and hands me
her letter. Pulling myself up, I sit cross-legged and read out loud.
Kaye, my little huutsuu.’” I cover my mouth and close my
eyes. The last word comes out as a croak. Mom’s nickname for Suda
Kaye meant “little bird” in Comanche. Huutsuu to my Taabe.
My sister has always been the one up for a grand adventure. She could
make going grocery shopping the highlight of anyone’s week with her
dramatic flair and interest in all things. Same goes for a
laundromat, the car wash, a walk around the neighborhood. Always
something to experience, to see, hear, sense. My sister soaks up life
like a sponge until she’s wrung out, and then starts all over
again. That apple did not fall far from the tree, much to my dismay.
smiles wide. “Always and forever, Taabe,” she responds.
Not wanting to make Suda Kaye more emotional, I quickly read her
letter. With every sentence my heart sinks. Basically, Mom has told
my sister to leave home. To get in her car and travel the world,
starting with the States. To leave me in order to allow me to find my
own calling, without the worry of my baby sister there to hold me
back. My stomach churns and acid creeps up my throat as I read the
last couple sentences that tell her that if Camden, Suda Kaye’s
longtime boyfriend, truly loves her, he will set her free.
My hands shake as I pass it back to her, my entire body stiff as a
board. I feel as though I’ve been staked through the heart and left
mother wants my sister—my best friend—to leave me.
go away for as long as it took for Mom to find herself.
not going to do it, are you?” I ask, the fear clear in my tone.
bites down on the side of her cheek and nods.
can’t do that. What about Camden? He won’t understand. A guy like
that…the life he wants to give you. No way. You just…” I let
out a breath, grab my sister’s hands and squeeze, trying to
transfer all the worry and fear I’ll experience with her leaving me
behind. And yet I don’t say a word. In this moment, she has to make
the choice that’s right for her.
I swallow down the lump of emotion swelling in my throat and whisper,
“What are you going to do?” She stares into my eyes, right
through to my soul, and says the five words I never wanted to hear
going to fly free.”
I close my eyes, lean forward to kiss her forehead. “I love you,
Suda Kaye.” It’s the only thing I can say. It’s raw, honest and
know you could come with me?” Her voice fills with hope, but the
last thing she needs is me tying her down, trying to run her life for
her. Mom made that very clear in her letter. Heck, she made it clear
my head, I cup her soft cheek. “You have to make your own choices.”
nods, folds up her letter, puts it back in the envelope and then ties
up the stack in a bundle once more.
sister, not one to let grass grow under her feet, pulls the big
suitcase from under her bed that Mom gave her for graduation and sets
it on the comforter. Methodically, without saying a word, I help my
sister pack her things. The last item she puts on top of her clothes
is a picture of me, Mom and her, taken last year before Mom became
too sick. It had been a good day; we’d had a picnic in the park.
Laughing, snacking and listening to our mother share one story after
I knew then that those good days would be few and far between, so I
encouraged her storytelling, while Suda Kaye ate up every ounce as
though it were her very favorite dish.
hands, I walk my sister to her car and put her suitcase in the trunk.
“Do you know where you’ll go after you see Camden?” I ask,
knowing she wouldn’t leave without seeing him first.
smiles and shrugs. “We’re in the middle of the country. I’m
going to pick a direction and just keep driving until I get too
tired. Then I’ll stop and decide where I’m meant to be next.”
“You call me. I’ll come get you anywhere, any place. No matter
w-what.” My voice shakes as I pull her into my arms and inhale her
fragrance—cherry-scented shampoo and lotion. I allow the scent to
imprint on my memory bank for I know I’ll need it in the lonely
months, maybe even years, to come.
Kaye walks around her car and opens the driver’s side door. “Miss
me,” she says, and the deluge of tears falls from my eyes like a
me more,” I whisper, and hold up my hand.
mimics the gesture, placing her palm against mine. “Always.”
Then I watch for a long time as my sister’s taillights eventually
fade and disappear into the black night. Before long, I look up into
the open sky and the wealth of sparkling stars blanketing the sky
like diamonds over black velvet.
pick a star and make the same wish I’ve been making since I was a
child. “One of these days, I wish someone I love would stay.”
Catch a Dream
by Audrey Carlan Copyright © Audrey Carlan. Published by HQN Books.
Carlan is a #1 New
York Times, USA
Street Journal bestselling
author of over 40 novels, including the worldwide phenomenon Calendar
Girl serial, and her books have been translated into more than 30
languages across the globe. Audrey lives in the California Valley
with her two children and the love of her life.