Julia strode down the well-traveled path. Her heart was beating rapidly and she had a feeling of urgency as she hurried along. She stopped and looked around. The trees on both sides of the trail were so thick that she couldn't see beyond them, and a canopy of branches overhead was hiding the sun from view. Thick vines and vegetation had crept up the trunks of many trees and were hanging over the limbs. She heard the chatter of monkeys and a few tropical birds communicating with each other, but other than that, it was peaceful and serene. So why had her pulse rate accelerated?
Julia continued on for a ways until she came to a fork in the path. The trail on the right was trimmed and well-worn but the one on the left was less traveled and narrow. Not only that, a large fat snake was hanging from a branch. The snake's head lifted and followed her every movement. This sent a chill up her spine and Julia shivered involuntarily. Snakes had never bothered her before but this one was much larger than an ordinary garden snake. Whether or not it was poisonous, she didn't know.
Julia bit her lip, wondering which path to take. The one on the right seemed more inviting, but she was curious about the other and where it led. After a few seconds, she headed down the well-trimmed path. For some reason, she felt a deep foreboding with each step she took. Had she chosen wisely?
It did not take long until she came upon an opening in the thick forest. Julia's eyes widened at the beauty, so green and lush. A magnificent aqua-colored lake stood out from this forest and peacefulness seemed to rein over this area. As her eyes scanned the beauty of this land, she heard crunching of debris from behind her.
Instinctively, she knew that her life was in danger. Why, she did not know. Julia's heart pounded furiously. Beads of sweat formed on her brow and her chest tightened. Taking a deep breath, she slowly turned and found herself face to face with a large burly man that had an angular scar across his cheek. His piercing dark eyes were hard and cold as he glared at her. His contemptuous smile told her that he had been hunting her like prey.
Julia was helpless. She was in a remote area by herself. When the man saw her fear, he grinned, accentuating the scar along his cheekbone. As he slowly approached her, to her horror, she could not move an inch. She was frozen to the spot. So she did the only thing she could think of. She let out a blood-curdling scream that echoed in her ears.
Instantly, John bolted upright from his bed, his heart pounding erratically as he awoke from a deep sleep. He blinked his eyes a couple times, trying to come to his senses when he finally realized that Julia had awakened him, screaming at the top of her voice. He leaned toward the nightstand, switched on the light, and then turned toward his wife. When he saw how pale she was, John realized she had had a nightmare. Was it the same dream again? He took her hand and squeezed it lovingly as he watched her chest rise and fall in quick breaths. After a few moments, her eyes flickered open and met his. When he looked into her hazel eyes, he knew she was frightened.
"You had another one, didn't you?"
"The same one?"
She nodded again, her eyes wide with fear.
"It's been a month now and you've had this same dream once or twice a week. Does it ever vary or is every detail the same?"
"The same," she answered as she pushed her fingers through her rich auburn hair. "There's no variation."
John slid next to her and pulled her into his arms. How he loved this woman, his wife and companion! And it wrenched his heart that she had to endure such dreams. What had caused them in the first place? He wrapped his arms around her in a protective manner as she snuggled in his embrace. She gave a sigh of relief as he tightened his arms around her.
Julia was an investigative reporter for the Dixie Chronicle in St. George, Utah. She was a stubborn, determined woman but her pleasant smile was genuine, which warmed the soul of those she met. She, also, had a deep faith in God but she had her mischievous ways. For fun, she would introduce herself by using her first and middle name, just to see the surprised look on people's faces. What was her middle name? Roberts. That's right. Julia Roberts! In fact, she almost laughed out loud when someone actually asked for her autograph. She didn't even look like the movie star. Not wanting to embarrass the poor man, she gave him her autograph. Julia vowed that one day she would ask her father why she had been given such an unusual middle name.
She was stunningly beautiful, a farm girl at heart with a touch of grace and elegance, when needed. Her husband cherished everything about her, even her strong will and stubborn ways. She was completely opposite from John, which made his life with her even more intriguing. They had been married for twenty-one years. She was forty-one and he was forty-three.
Right now they were in a hotel in Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula on assignment for the Chronicle. Needless to say, they decided to make it a vacation and stay two weeks instead of one.
As Julia heard the deep breathing of her husband, she knew that he had fallen asleep again. She smiled. This vacation was a much-needed one for both of them. John had been working extra long hours lately and she had greatly missed his presence at home.
Julia had longed for his attention and loving ways, even his teasing, for the past six months. She longed for that affectionate kiss as he passed through the kitchen, holding hands during a movie, and words of communication while lying in bed. It sort of rekindled the fire that may have been forgotten from every day life in a busy world of responsibilities.
Julia knew how important it was to keep a romantic relationship with her husband. She liked a romantic evening best when it was spontaneous rather than planned. But who had time to even plan lately?
It had been quite a while since Julia felt her heart beat rapidly as she felt her husband's arms tighten around her waist and she desperately missed it. She felt a need to renew those special feelings as often as possible, to keep their love alive. So, here they were in Mexico, and finally taking time for one another.
The only thing that confused her was why she was having these dreams. They were the same exact dreams every time. As she lay staring at the ceiling, Julia knew that she could not fall back to sleep so she very quietly slid out of bed.
She walked to the dresser and slipped on some clothes, brushed her hair, and put on some makeup. Then she turned out the lamp beside the bed and slipped out the door to take a relaxing walk. It was six o'clock in the morning and not a soul was up and stirring on this Sabbath day. This was a perfect time to meditate and think of all her many blessings, for her husband and their three daughters.
Julia walked out into the cool morning air and breathed in the fresh fragrance. As she slowly strolled down the sidewalk, she thought about her assignment for the Dixie Chronicle. She was supposed to write about the ruins of the ancient people of Mesoamerica. What an exciting assignment! She was so thrilled when her boss had given her this important project, the first one he had ever given her since her promotion as an investigative reporter. She smiled with contentment as she walked toward a bunch of tall thick shrubs next to a park.
As Julia stepped around the shrubs, she saw a short pudgy man with wisps of grayish brown hair surrounding his balding head. He was smiling as he admired something in his hand. The man beside him was an unusually tall Latin. His short sleeves revealed his tanned arms and he had dark curly hair that touched the collar of his white shirt.
As the balding man pulled a large envelope from his jacket and handed it to his companion, he exclaimed, "Beautiful! It's simply..."
His words trailed off when his eyes met Julia's. As if startled by her presence, he froze, staring at her with widened eyes.
Instantly, his companion turned around and looked over his shoulder to see what he was staring at. But it did not take long for the Latin's dark eyes to quickly change from surprise to irritation. Julia noticed that his eyes were hard and cold and his jaw was rigid. A chill went down her spine as a feeling of apprehension crept inside her. Something told her to leave and to leave now. She was not about to question those feelings, so she instantly turned on her heels and strode toward the hotel.
Why had these men acted so strangely? If they had wanted privacy, why did they meet at a public park? But as she thought about it, it was only six o'clock on a Sunday morning. Why would they expect anyone to be wandering through the park at this time of day? What surprised her most was their attitude and the way the Latin had reacted to her presence, as if he were angry.
Feeling uneasy, Julia dared not turn around and see if she was followed but quickly picked up her pace. She quickly strode up the stairs of the hotel and ran head long into the chest of a man standing near the door.
"Whoa, there, Julia!" Paul said with surprise as he grabbed onto her shoulders. "Why are you in such a hurry? And where's John?"
Feeling startled, it took a few seconds to catch her breath before she could answer. Julia quickly turned around to see if she had been followed, and seeing no one, she sighed with relief.
Paul took her arm and led her to a sofa in the waiting room and sat across from her. "So, what's up? You look as if something's troubling you."
Julia tried to smile reassuringly, but it was more of a forced one instead. "Oh, I was just taking a walk. I couldn't sleep in. You know, the excitement of being here and all."
Paul smiled back, his eyes full of joy. "I know exactly how you feel, Julia. I couldn't sleep, either. I'm so excited to be here. I really want to thank you for allowing me to come along on this trip. When John told me about your assignment, I just had to invite myself along. This is like a dream come true for me. Man, to be able to see the ruins of Mesoamerica! That's every archaeologist's dream."
Paul was a dear friend who taught at Dixie State College in St. George, Utah. He not only taught American history and archaeology, but he was also a dyed-in-the-wool archaeologist and was constantly involved in restoring the past.
Paul was a serious sort of fellow. He was lean and tall with blond hair and large blue eyes. He had glasses that were set on his long, slender nose, giving him the distinguishing look of a professor. He was thirty-nine years old and still unmarried. As an archaeologist, digging in the dirt was the most exhilarating part of his life and he had not found a woman who could stand digging beside him all day long. Until then, he would remain single.
"So, where's John?" asked Paul with a raise of his eyebrow.
"Still sleeping. I was just headed back to the room to wake him and..." Julia's eyes widened in surprise.
The Latin whom she had seen at the park was standing beside the desk, talking nonchalantly to the clerk and staring straight at Julia. There was no mistake about it. He was the same man, all right. The tall Latin's eyes seemed to penetrate right through her as he smiled but Julia instantly averted her eyes and looked down at her hands lying in her lap. What was he doing here? Had he followed her?
After a moment, she berated herself for being so paranoid. The man probably had a room at the hotel and was just chatting with the clerk. The young boy was very friendly and he had talked with her for some time last night, asking where she was from and so forth.
When she felt Paul touch her hand, she jumped.
"Julia," he said with concern. "What's wrong?"
She leaned toward him and whispered, "I saw a couple men at the park this morning and something about their conduct gave me the willies."
"What do you mean?"
Julia bit her lip nervously and leaned closer to Paul. "I can't describe it exactly, but inside I have an anxious feeling and I don't know why."
"What are you talking about?"
"He's standing at the desk," she said, keeping her eyes glued on Paul.
He turned toward the front desk and asked with puzzlement, "Who? The desk clerk?"
"No, the other one."
"There isn't anybody else, Julia."
She looked up toward the desk and saw the clerk busily working. "He's gone."
"Shall I ask the clerk about this man? If he's bothering you, we should report it."
Julia shook her head, feeling ridiculous. "Oh, it's nothing. I'm just being paranoid in a strange land." She stood and gestured toward the dining room. "I'll see you in about an hour for breakfast."