Chapter twenty

Welcome to the draft of my new novel Me and Lizzie May…Forgotten . If you are just joining me please click here to be directed to Chapter One. The story is based on the premise that there is life left in these old things we cherish and that sometimes it is with this discovery of the past that our lives change. I am serializing the draft of my novel, one chapter each day for feedback as well as eagle eye editing from friends. Please feel free to Facebook share or add to your tweet. I really hope you enjoy reading it with your morning cup of coffee. Thanks!

Pantaloons    

What is this strange whisper that beckons me? A memory so brief, just glimpse of fabric, a hint of leg and then… Oh, it is so frustrating when the deep grey mist comes and pushes away the light!

I wander alone as always, as forever and a day through these cold halls lost deep inside my thoughts aware of nothing, which is fitting since nothing is aware of me.

Pantaloons? This memory tickles at me, teases me but I swat it away as I would a fly. I want it not.

“Away!” I shout.

They do not dissipate, these vile, vicious creatures. An insistent swarm of these buzzing memories attacks from all sides threatening to choke me and drive me mad.

“Yes, yes I want to know all. But please not yet. Not all at once. It is too much! Please! STOP!” I scream in terror, afraid of my madness as I hug my chest with fierce earnestness to console my trembling body.

The dust settles and the air soon stills.

All is now silent.

Pantaloons. The word whispered anew yet more insistent pokes and prods at the outer reaches of my mind. My trembling hands rush to cover my ears so that I may not hear these taunting whispers.

I walk on keeping my step steady all the while deeply inhaling then slowly exhaling, calming my panic as I attempt to reach my portrait, my sanctuary before the tempest comes.

And then it is as if I am running through a narrow tunnel and the light in the distance races toward me brighter and yet brighter still, blinding me, leaving me frozen in place. I am but an animal trapped! The light engulfs the darkness and the memories surround me.

Chapter nineteen – stupid girl

Welcome to the draft of my new novel Me and Lizzie May…Forgotten . If you are just joining me please click here to be directed to Chapter One. The story is based on the premise that there is life left in these old things we cherish and that sometimes it is with this discovery of the past that our lives change. I am serializing the draft of my novel, one chapter each day for feedback as well as eagle eye editing from friends. Please feel free to Facebook share or add to your tweet. I really hope you enjoy reading it with your morning cup of coffee. Thanks!

 I couldn’t sleep. My mind droned on like the Indy 500. I could feel my thoughts race around and around the track zooming by so I couldn’t decipher them. Professor Fredericks’ email had brought back a past that I had tried my best to block out. If I were an animal I would be an ostrich. If I don’t acknowledge it, it isn’t there.

I was once really stupid. Okay, maybe more than once. I was a shy nerdy college girl who read too many novels and had fallen in love with the idea of love. Not real love, but the pure beautiful, aching love that can only be found in books…and sometimes in movies. I blame Jane Austen. Because of her, I fell hard for dark, floppy hair and piercing green eyes. I fell for brash and loud over substance. Sarah could never      understand the attraction. She saw right through him.

Starting the catering business together was really Sarah’s way of keeping an eye on me, keeping us together and protecting me from him. But the opposite happened. The busier she kept me the more I romanticized our relationship. I didn’t realize that I was more Tess than Emma, doomed to tragedy. He wanted me because he could control me and of course he lusted after my parent’s connections to a world he was hell-bent on conquering.

Why do novels always romanticize stormy love affairs?  When the stormy days came for me I wasn’t prepared for the emotional hurricane. I used pills to help calm me and dull my senses. I liked that feeling of weightlessness that the pills gave me. Maybe I liked it too much. Xanax became my faithful friend. After awhile they couldn’t dull the strain anymore. I was completely overwhelmed, trapped in the eye of my storm knowing that at any second I would be tossed back into its wild abyss. In a moment of panic I did something really stupid, although in my defense once again, books and films make it seem much more soft-focus romantic than it really is. Guess what? There is nothing desperately romantic about getting your stomach pumped. It’s just desperate. Afterwards, I was sent away to a “spa” because I was “exhausted”. That was the story anyway, if the neighbors asked.

It seems funny now that it took a beautiful blue hydrangea for me to see the light, or the dark, or whatever. But that’s another memory I try to suppress and I refuse to think about it now. I’m not ready to take on that memory.

The anxiety hasn’t gone away. I just hide it better.  Sometimes I don’t feel complete, as if I were Swiss cheese, whole but not. There are days when I pinch myself to make sure that I am here. I pinch hard enough to leave bruises but make sure to do it where they won’t show. I do not want to go back to the “spa”. People tend to look at you funny after you’ve gone there. I can feel those sideways glances at family gatherings, friend’s parties. Those whispered conversations that abruptly stop when I walk by. Even better, I appeared to have a new moniker: “Poor Liz”.

I would bet that Lizzie May never felt like this. The coal-black eyes that stare out of that painting are blazing with life. That woman knew who the hell she was and she knew how to live.

“Liz, snap out of it,” Sarah said loudly.

Was I daydreaming? Whoops.

Sarah had opened the blank envelope from the trunk’s secret compartment. Inside were the two faded sepia photos. I made us a pot of tea then joined her on the sofa to look at them. We both had a good laugh at the strange costumes and plump bodies. Today’s bone thin toned and tanned actresses would be completely out-of-place in 19th century theatre where soft, pale and feminine was the ideal. Is there anything feminine about women anymore? We hotly debated it for some time.

“Check this one out Sarah” I said as I handed her the second photo card.

Obviously staged, the photo is of a proud Lizzie May standing by a large ornate urn with soft variegated ivy trailing down its sides. The painted background scene is a watercolor landscape complete with misty trees and cloudy skies. To the left of the urn, front and center is Lizzie May. Ivy trails languidly through her tiny fingers and her body while posed seems relaxed and natural. She is wearing a Renaissance type of costume with full lace panels sewn on the sides of dark satin knickers. On top she wore an elaborate waist-length fitted jacket with ruffles at the wrists. There was a scratchy looking high ruffle at the neck that was layered with a large jeweled pearl cross and other large jewels. A haughty Lizzie May holds a thin fencing sword tightly in her fist while she juts out her right hip. She looks more like a small woman with attitude to spare than the young man she was meant to portray.

Sarah thought the costume was for a role in Romeo and Juliet or another Shakespearean play. If so it was a male role, Mercutio or Paris perhaps? Lizzie May’s head tilts over her right shoulder, her hair powdered white and set with large pin-curls piled atop her head and then fitted with a jaunty soft velvet cap adorned with a single white feather set in jewels.

I stared at the photo and found myself drawn in by all the elements so foreign to this modern world. I loved how the photographer captured her face with the light. It is without doubt the face of a self-assured young woman. Her chin juts out stubbornly and her mouth just slightly bows up at the corners and if she has a secret but won’t share. Her eyes glint with mischief under the photographer’s lens.

This woman was following the yellow brick road to Oz and she knew it. I wished she could take me with her.

Chapter eighteen – you have mail

Welcome to the draft of my new novel Me and Lizzie May…Forgotten . If you are just joining me please click here to be directed to Chapter One. The story is based on the premise that there is life left in these old things we cherish and that sometimes it is with this discovery of the past that our lives change. I am serializing the draft of my novel, one chapter each day for feedback as well as eagle eye editing from friends. Please feel free to Facebook share or add to your tweet. I really hope you enjoy reading it with your morning cup of coffee. Thanks!

 Dennis needed to return to the store after lunch. He had several appraisals to do which would keep him busy until early evening. I spent my afternoon baking for a client and then stretched my legs on a jaunt through Chapel Street to clear my head.I stumbled upon a busy farmer’s market and the myriad of scents and sounds drew me in, trapping me, as I meandered mindlessly through the stalls.  I soon found one that sold mouth-watering Brandywine tomatoes, my absolute favorite. Holding one of those red, juicy orbs in my hands I was suddenly inspired. Dinner this evening would be a simple masterpiece! With purpose I searched through the stalls looking for fresh Mozzarella and fragrant basil that I now planned to pair with the beautiful tomatoes for a light dinner. I was so pleased with myself I decided this was the type of meal that should be shared. I wove back through the crowd, a lemming going against the flow but made it back to my stall in one piece and purchased three more tomatoes. I asked around and after more jostling and pushing than I can usually stand, I spotted the booth that sells fresh pasta. Sheer bliss! So many choices! I couldn’t decide between the spinach, wheat or traditional linguini so I bought them all. My stomach did flip-flops of joy and then led me on a mad hunt for prosciutto, radicchio and onions. I smiled to myself knowing that it was more than likely that Dennis would pop by once he smelled this fragrant meal from across the hall.I was right. Dennis did eventually pop by. Once he saw what I was preparing he left and returned with the perfect Chianti Classico to pair with our simple meal. He regaled me with a great story about a fading superstar he was working with. He mimicked her mannerisms that left me choking on a piece of basil.  Once I could breath again he described her once luminous face, voted one of the most beautiful in the world. To hear him describe it, her face was now smooth as marble and just as devoid of expression.“I’m all for maintenance but you should have seen her! All of that Botox crap made her look like one of those bad Madame Tussauds’ creations! It was a freak show and I couldn’t look away…and don’t get me started on the cheek-fillers. Such a gorgeous woman, whatever was she thinking? What is wrong with these women? Why can’t they just age gracefully like Audrey Hepburn?“

After a long debate about the pros and cons of plastic surgery, we decided we were both much too chicken to ever do anything. We agreed to still be friends to the end, warts, wrinkles and all.

Sated by our late meal and Chianti, the Sandman visited Dennis. I tucked a pillow next to his head so he wouldn’t wake with a crick in his neck. Luckygirl  had purred for hours barely stirring from her perch on his lap. I lounged in front of the fireplace staring at the flickering candles and enjoyed the peace and quiet.

It had been a strange day. Starting with an email from my once favorite professor and mentor at Yale. He wrote about how much he had enjoyed working with me and wanted us to meet for coffee. He had a project he wanted my advice on, would I please consider it?

I had thought about that email most of the day. I once worked on an incredible research project about the Charter Oak. I remember how I loved spending hours pouring over the aged documents trying to pull together as many records, letters and obscure finds as we could for an exhibition. It was an exciting time with each minute discovery filling my heart. I loved it, all of it. The musty odor of the aged documents, the soft cotton gloves, the hum of the overhead lights. I would daydream about the hands that wrote such fanciful words during a time when people weren’t rushed, rushed, rushed. A time when writing a letter meant using your best paper and ink and practicing your handwriting until it had just the right amount of flourish but not too much. You didn’t want to be deemed as showy. I was a rising star in the research field back then. I felt safe and happy in my little world. How stupid I was to walk away. Sometimes people do stupid things.

Impulsively I got up and grabbed my laptop. Logging in and opening my mail, I searched one sent by Professor Fredericks. After a few frantic moments I found it and re-read it three more times as if to convince myself that I had not imagined it. After a few pensive moments  I typed:

To: Professor Fredericks

From: Liz Green

Subject: Proposal

So great to hear from you! It has been too long. Would love to get together but don’t know how helpful I would be. Research skills more than a bit rusty. Will be at your office Thursday to discuss.

Liz

Without reading what I had written I hit SEND.

Chapter seventeen – Mama

Welcome to the draft of my new novel Me and Lizzie May…Forgotten . If you are just joining me please click here to be directed to Chapter One. The story is based on the premise that there is life left in these old things we cherish and that sometimes it is with this discovery of the past that our lives change. I am serializing the draft of my novel, one chapter each day for feedback as well as eagle eye editing from friends. Please feel free to Facebook share or add to your tweet. I really hope you enjoy reading it with your morning cup of coffee. Thanks!

 

How Mama would laugh when she caught me admiring myself in her mirror. “Darling child, vanity is truly not proper in one so young,” she would chastise me with the hint of a smile upon her rosy lips.

______________________________

I have been still for an eternity lost in the remembrances that I had grasped at for an age. I watch helplessly as the dust dances in the sheer golden sunbeam. Each tiny speck teases and taunts me with as yet another lost memory in fingertip’s reach. It is all too much. It is everything. It is all a wonder.

I close my tired eyes, my long lashes kissing my cheeks and drying my frustrated tears. i cover my face with trembling hands and attempt to focus my mind on just one small memory. Slowing my breath I allow it enter my very soul.

________________________________________________________

Vanity oh vanity.  Yes Mama, I admit I have been so vain in my life.

Papa, he died of the yellow fever. Mama took to her bed, her grief too much to bear. For endless weeks there was an endless parade of callers. The elderly women who had all dressed in their funereal finery spent hours tut-tutting over me and petting me as if I were a Pekingese. My behavior and my appearance could be deemed as simply perfect. I learned then and there the rewards that came from pleasing people. I vowed that from then on I would keep my dress clean and make sure that my unruly curls were kept tamed. I remember watching, always watching the adults. They would relax and in my silence they would forget that I was there. It was then that I could memorize their gestures, their inflections and especially their eyes, which many a time betrayed the words coming forth from their lips. The truth, I realized would always be revealed in the eyes.

One day Mama wore her finest hat, patted me on the head and told me to be an extra good little girl for when she returned she would bring me a surprise. Many tantalizing hours later, her cheeks slightly pink and a smile on her face she returned with a lovely licorice whip for my tea!

Mama and Great-Aunt Josephine began to go out visiting and I became lonely with just silly old Nanny to talk to. Determined to educate myself further, I began to read more than just the little primers in the nursery. I would go into Papa’s abandoned study and pick books off of his shelf spending hours alone happily teaching myself more and more words. Whenever I was caught I was scolded that Papa’s books were completely unsuitable for a delicate young girl like myself. It was at these moments that I missed Papa the most. He spoke to me as an equal showing me the wonders of the world in his leather-bound atlases. Oh to see that world!

One afternoon, Nanny had me remove my impeccably clean day clothes and dressed me for a special tea. I had to be on my very best behavior she giggled and must be the most darling little doll. We were to have a special visitor, now wouldn’t that be nice? I hated when Nanny spoke to me as if I were a baby.

I leaned against Mama as she sat with her hands folded in her lap waiting anxiously in the conservatory. I desperately wanted one of the strawberry tarts that were tantalizingly within reach but I knew that Mama would not approve. She was seated in the high-backed wicker chair and the giant potted ferns softly fanned out behind her as if bowing to her beauty. We in our best half-mourning made for such a beautiful tableaux.

Mama was informed that her guest had arrived. Within moments a handsome man walked in with a quick step and a big smile, in his hands he carried a dark-haired china doll with a visage not unlike my own.

“For you dearest Lizzie May for I know that we will be the best of friends” he softly said. He then bent down to introduce him-self, which was highly irregular amongst the adults that I had known. He was to be my new Papa. Mama called him Phillip.

I created a mask for my face, smiled sweetly and even danced a few pirouettes as requested by Mama but inside I was a tempest churning with confusion. What would happen to us? Were we to leave our home? Would Nanny come with us?

“Sir, will I have any brothers and sisters to love?” I boldly asked. Mama frowned ever so slightly at my impertinence. One must never speak unless spoken to. She had told me this many times before.

“Why yes my dear, I have four rambunctious boys living on our beautiful farm all the way North in Maine. You can run and jump and play to your heart’s delight. The air is fresh and good for the health. My boys, now your brothers are absolutely thrilled to have a baby sister to coo over.”

My supremacy in my new home had now been defined. I would have four boys to lord over. Why, it sounded quite delightful!

It has been many weeks now and we were at long last towards the ending of our journey. Poor Mama had such a difficult time closing down the house but New Papa – for that is what I call him inside of my head – he handled everything with kid gloves always cooing over Mama and soothing her fears.

As soon as we left New York the air did seem crisper, cleaner. I went on my very first train ride and it had all been so exciting and so very loud! Mama insisted that we purchase new travel clothes. My shiny new button shoes were fussed over by all who saw them. I was a “delight”, a “perfect angel” the conductors and porters would bring me treats and Mama would give me a knowing smile of approval.

After finally arriving at our station, we then had to take a frightfully large stage pulled by four very weary horses. Mama was quite tired and bothered as it was a warm day and we were still in our heavy travel coats.

I can still feel the weight of my oilskin coat and how my shoes had become scuffed and I started to cry not for the shoes but to not look perfect for my new family. I never wanted to disappoint Mama.

And how I remember looking longingly out the window! I saw smoke and rough rocky land and then in the distance there appeared real life Indians hooting and hollering running towards us at break-neck speed! It was exhilarating and frightening all at once and I hid behind Mama’s skirts. I peeked out and saw that one did fall and rolled several times before getting up and continuing to holler. New Papa laughed aloud. “And there my sweet Lizzie May, are your new brothers”

The carriage came to bumpy stop and a grubby group of blackened boys reached out to grab me, laughing and shoving. They were so excited they talked over one other so that I was quite perplexed as to what they were saying at all.  Suddenly strong quick fingers encircled my waist and I was picked up like a rag doll and carried away by a boy whose face was black with soot yet had eyes bluer than the sky.

“Hiya- I’m George!” he said between heavy breaths as he ran away with his prize. My other new brothers gave chase. Up and down we raced and then…

Suddenly and without warning the warmth of my memories has left me. I am left as cold as ice.

The pale waning light catches my fall and holds me in its embrace. I can feel myself tremble from head to toe. The joy of this glorious memory has exhausted me. The details…oh, so very vivid! How can that be when it was all so long ago? Or was it?

I really must rest now.

Chapter sixteen – Touching the past

Welcome to the draft of my new novel Me and Lizzie May…Forgotten . If you are just joining me please click here to be directed to Chapter One. The story is based on the premise that there is life left in these old things we cherish and that sometimes it is with this discovery of the past that our lives change. I am serializing the draft of my novel, one chapter each day for feedback as well as eagle eye editing from friends. Please feel free to Facebook share or add to your tweet. I really hope you enjoy reading it with your morning cup of coffee. Thanks!

 

Rob held the worn brown leather book in his hands. He absently stroked the cracked leather then put it back on the table without opening it.

“I wonder if George was Lizzie May’s husband?” he asked Dennis.

“Or her lover” said Miss Betty her cheeks blushing slightly.

“Oh Betty” said Miss Margaret furrowing her brow with disapproval.

Sarah gently held the locket in her palm examining it front and back. It really was a lovely piece. The tiny photos inside of the locket made her pause. I leaned over her shoulder to admire the one photo of a chubby baby is dressed all in white. The toothless grin was framed by two prominent dimples in his round cheeks. Fair, wispy hair peeps out of its white cap. The baby’s chubby hand grasps the lace gown in a tight fist. It is difficult to discern the gender but Sarah’s guess is that it is a boy.  The baby’s bright eyes and sweet full cheeks were the picture of happiness and good health.

In contrast to the joy of the baby, the other photo was of a grown man who appeared cocky and sure of himself. His square chin is held high and his eyes gaze out with confidence. His fair, thin hair is brushed off his forehead and his straight nose and high cheekbones hint at a Northern European ancestry.  He had a presence this man.

“I assume that is George” said Sarah.

“Handsome wasn’t he?” she said more to herself than to me. I nodded my agreement. I could see how Lizzie May or any woman could fall for a man like this, a man who seemed comfortable in his skin.

She handed the locket off to Miss Margaret and I stifled a laugh when I heard Miss Margaret scold Miss Betty. she had made an inappropriate remark I am sure.

Dennis however remained unusually quiet. Luckygirl had moved off of Rob’s jacket and settled herself in Dennis’ lap. Exhausted by all of the excitement, she was now sound asleep. Dennis is seated in the chocolate brown leather chair I discovered at an estate sale. It had ornately carved wooden armrests and legs but others passed it by due to it’s torn tapestry upholstery and crumbling horsehair stuffing. I brought the chair to Dennis and he had it restores to his own specifications. It is basically his chair now. He looks like a pensive king sitting on his throne. He had taken his glasses off and was absently rubbing the spot on his nose where they pinched. He has complained about those glasses forever but has not replaced them. He thinks he looks like a Professor in them. He does.

Sarah, who had moved from the floor to the more comfortable the sofa, opened the fabric bundle to reveal a beautifully etched silver handled hairbrush. The silver had tarnished but a simple rub on her sleeve revealed it’s beautiful shine.

“Can you imagine using a brush like this?” she said to me as she stroked the handle reverently. “Was this her brush do you think?“

There are no hairs in it. If it had been used it had also been meticulously cleaned and polished. That brush meant something important to Lizzie May. I wonder what?

I asked Rob to hand me the worn leather book and handed him a piece of blueberry cake in its place. I gently dusted the leather cover with a soft cloth to reveal flecks of gold embossing on the cover. The etched portrait was of a woman sitting on a swing in a garden. I itched to trace the design with my finger but decided not too in case the oils on my fingers harmed the cover. Dennis leaned over and tapped me on the shoulder, carefully balancing Luckygirl on his lap as he did so.

“May I see that please?” Once again the leather-bound book changed hands.

Reluctantly I handed it to him wrapped in another clean cloth. He gently held it and examined the outside before very carefully opening the cover. He placed his glasses back on his nose and intently scanned the page.

“This is a memoir, started in 1880…”

“Wait, wait! How could you possibly know that just by looking at it?” I asked.

“Actually”, he laughed, “it reads ‘ My Adventures and Reminisces’ by Lizzie May Ulmer 1900. I think this must have been an attempt at writing her memoirs. It looks more like a jumble of thoughts and experiences than a book. This may have been a diary or perhaps a rough draft of some sort.”

I leaned in close to him and watched as he turned the yellowed pages and attempted to read the strange slanted writing. There were lists of dates and names but the curlicues and flourishes made it difficult to decipher.

“People used the Spenserian style of handwriting in the latter part of the 19th century” he explained. The upper case letters were characterized by overly ornate flourishes. As you can see, the lower-case letters are somewhat similar to our own. This form of writing was popular until the 1920’s. It’s actually quite beautiful. Our culture is phasing out of handwriting and it really is a shame.”

Sarah nods in agreement, “My girls probably won’t be taught handwriting when they are older. It’s all about the smart board, smart tablets and computers. Individuality is being lost.”

She turned to me “Hey Liz remember when you tried to write your name using a heart instead of a dot on your letter I’s in fourth grade and Sister Rita made you stay in at recess and write “I will not be garish before Christ” about a hundred times?”

We both laugh heartily. I had forgotten about that. Sister Rita had also rapped my knuckles with her ruler many times for daydreaming. Apparently I was a lost soul. “Imagine if I had written in the Spencerian style! Now, that would have blown her habit!”

“Listen to this” Dennis ignored us and read aloud:

Day after day was passed traveling. I was still fast sleep when I was awoken by Mama. She pointed out the window saying, “Look, look dear Lizzie. There is our new home!”

New Papa was so proud to show us the white clapboard house on the top of the hill. There looked to be … I can’t read that …  field to the left and from the very flames came wild Indians … can’t read that … as night whooping and hollering towards us. I hid beneath Mama’s skirts but she just …something, something… and gently lifted me to her lap. “Have no fear my darling for those black faced Indians I believe to be your new brothers!

My new Papa opened the …this section is smudged…crowded around him, he looked at us in perfect amazement and with a … behind a pleasant fatherly smile he exclaimed, “Well, well, you are a nice dirty looking lot of boys.

     “Lizzie,” he said addressing Mama and helping her to alight, “This is our family, a little smoky; I can’t tell which is which, so we’ll have to wait till they get their faces washed to introduce them by their names.”

But Mama was equal to the occasion…  they are all them, even if …country air has turned …”

This was the moment I chose call out in my tiny voice, “Please, will no one help me out?” … boys started with a rush, … new little Stepsister. One blue-eyed boy was there first. He introduced himself as George and in an instant, in spite of his dirty appearance, I … to spring from … struggled to take me from him but he ran with me, the others in full chase, down the road, over the stone walls, … exertion. New Papa laughingly … to stop and brought me to the house in his strong arms. Afterwards they took turns admiring my curls, my dimples, my pretty dress … Once they were … sizes and strength. It was a wonderful first meeting and the start of a beautiful new family life.“

We all smiled at the antiquated yet compelling storytelling. The journal or whatever it was had opened up a Pandora’s box by giving us a glimpse into Lizzie May’s life.

Rob and Sarah had been conversing in  low voices over by the window.   he shook his head then he picked up his jacket to leave.

“Thanks all, this has been… interesting, and I do mean that. By the way Liz, you still make the best coffee cake around. Thanks.”

He headed for the door with Sarah right behind him. She gave us a tight smile and a wave.

“Well those two have their troubles”, said Miss Betty as she slowly creaked out of her chair.

“Yes,” said Miss Margaret “but that is a man in love, I hope she knows that.” They linked their arms and shuffled out the door.

Dennis aware that he was the only remaining guest asked if he could stay and read some more. Luckygirl was perfectly content purring in his lap. I absently picked up the lampshade and returned it to its base. Then I stepped into the kitchen to fix us a light lunch and to once again lose myself in my thoughts.

I glanced over at the trunk. “What secrets do you have left to share with me?” I softly asked . There was no response.

Chapter fifteen – George?

Welcome to the draft of my new novel Me and Lizzie May…Forgotten . If you are just joining me please click here to be directed to Chapter One. The story is based on the premise that there is life left in these old things we cherish and that sometimes it is with this discovery of the past that our lives change. I am serializing the draft of my novel, one chapter each day for feedback as well as eagle eye editing from friends. Please feel free to Facebook share or add to your tweet. I really hope you enjoy reading it with your morning cup of coffee. Thanks!

 

George! His name explodes in my brain releasing thousands of once lost memories to fight each other for my attention. It is more than I can comprehend and I fight for control.  I am left giddy as I attempt to focus my mind on just one memory. It is the memory of the day we met. I can almost see it. It was so very long ago. And then it is gone.

I close my eyes again and see myself as a wee six-year old girl with a mop of dark curls set in rags, a sweet dimple in my rosy cheek.

Mama! I see her as if through a haze. How is it that I remember her as being so very beautiful and yet… I cannot remember her face? Why can I not remember her face? Oh Mama, how I loved to brush your soft hair each night. Yes, oh yes with that lovely silver brush. How I remember that brush! It felt so heavy in my tiny hand. I stood on the tips of my toes to brush your fragrant hair. I never lost it Mama, you said to keep it always and I have… or I did. I cannot remember! The brush, it must be safe! I had a place Mama, a secret place and only I had the key.

This memory has left me. It teasingly whispers George’s name  in my ear then dances before mine eyes afore disappearing whence the dust it came.

Cruel spirits.

 

Chapter fourteen – treasure

Welcome to the draft of my new novel Me and Lizzie May…Forgotten . If you are just joining me please click here to be directed to Chapter One. The story is based on the premise that there is life left in these old things we cherish and that sometimes it is with this discovery that everything can change. I am serializing my finished novel, one chapter each day for feedback as well as eagle eye editing from friends. Please feel free to Facebook share or add to your tweet. I really hope you enjoy reading it with your morning cup of coffee. Thanks!

Much to Rob’s annoyance I  called Sarah in the middle of the night to tell her about my find. There was no way I could have waited until the next morning to call her. Running on adrenaline, too much caffeine and very little sleep, I met her at the girls’ school this morning so that I could deliver Em’s woodland cookies to her class. Their classmates always got a kick out of seeing us together. Em’s friends call us Em’s Mom and Em’s other Mom. After our share of hugs and kisses, we quick-stepped it out of there. When we reached the car, I called Dennis and told him to gather up the Misses. I had something exciting to show everyone.

Sarah was antsy with anticipation and took the steps two at a time. I struggled to keep up with her.

“Ladies, you weren’t planning on going ahead without me were you?” Dennis cut us off at the top of the stairs and bounded through the door camera in hand while yelling over his shoulder,  “I plan to video this auspicious moment for posterity!”

He stopped short in the doorway and Sarah had to stop short to avoid slamming into him.

“What the hell, Dennis?” she said testily and pushed passed him only to stop dead in her tracks.

Rob was standing in the middle of my living room. He was on a phone call and held up his hand to silence us.

“What the…” Sarah started in but Rob shushed her. Not a good thing for him to do because the look he received could have frozen fire.

Dennis gave me a look and we headed straight for the kitchen area where we got busy making coffee. I walked over to my oven and pulled out the blueberry crumb coffee cake I had left warming in there.

Rob finally ended his call and turned to face a glowering Sarah who stood her ground arms tight across her chest.

“What? Don’t give me that look! You run out of the house every day without a word. Lately you spend all your time here. You don’t see our friends, we haven’t been to the club in weeks…” his rant petered out and I kind of felt sorry for him.

Sarah angrily shook her head at him, her lips pressed thin and her brown eyes flashed.

We were all interrupted by a figure in the doorway draped in a deep fuchsia silk kimono.  This vision was Miss Betty and she had arrived with her usual dramatic panache. The high color in her cheeks matched her shockingly bright orange hair.  Miss Margaret, a few steps behind, calmly made her way to the closest chair then crossed her ankles and folded her hands in her lap, waiting. She is the ice to Miss Betty’s fire.  I have seen lots of photos of these two as young women. There is one photo in particular that describes their personalities to a T. In the photo you see them at the Coney Island Pier decked out in matching wide striped swimsuits and headscarves. In the photo Miss Betty is laughing with gusto, her entire body appeared alive with energy while a subdued Miss Margaret raises a perfectly arched eyebrow and smirks directly at the camera.

Awkwardly, we all tried to make small talk around Sarah and Rob but failed miserably.

“I’ve been caught up in this crazy project of Liz’s.  And, well, Dennis and I have talked about maybe partnering up to renovate his store and it’s not like you aren’t working 99.99% of the time anyway.  I want something new. I want something for me for a change. Besides, every single time I see you, you are on that stupid, stupid phone. How can you possibly expect us to have any kind of meaningful discussion?”  Sarah was furious at the intrusion.

I really don’t do confrontation well and I had a sinking feeling that Rob was going to place the blame on me for all of this. The Misses however were enjoying the drama immensely. Miss Betty’s was seated at the edge of the sofa leaning forward in order to hear every delicious word. Apparently when I moved in I brought my own personal soap opera for them to watch.

Rob angrily yanked off his jacket and tossed it on the ottoman. Luckygirl promptly walked over, kneaded her paws then curled up on it. He glared at her and she smugly blinked back at him.

“What is so exciting about that damn trunk anyway?” he said.

I knelt before the trunk and showed them where the fabric had torn to reveal the little door. Then I very gently pulled the door open.

Sarah pulled a lamp over to the trunk in order to light the space but the fancy lampshade filtered the light. She roughly removed the lampshade blinding us with the 120-watt bulb. Once the spots in front of my eyes had settled, I showed them the trunk’s secret. In the bright light we could see that it was lined in a now faded, pleated silk imprinted with tiny rosebuds.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a figure moving and jerked back knocking over Sarah in the process before I realized that what I was seeing my own reflection in the mirror.  Scaredy-cat!  Attached just inside the door was a small yet ornate silver mirror. Hanging from a hook just above the mirror there was a tiny golden locket hanging on a dusty velvet ribbon. The locket clasp had been damaged at some point leaving it to hang open, revealing tiny sepia photos of a proud, handsome young man on one side, a chubby infant on the other.  I gently turned it over and with a subdued voice, which belied my excitement, I read aloud the inscription, “To my love, my heart, forever George”.

Miss Betty sighed deeply, “Oh, isn’t that just so very romantic?”

Sarah leaned in and carefully removed a flat silken bundle. Rob pushed aside the post-it filled catalogs so she could lay the bundle on the coffee table. She then reached in once more to gently remove a stack of envelopes tied lovingly with a faded rose hued ribbon. The envelopes crunched but did not crumble. The ink was of a deep sepia color and the sweeping handwriting proved difficult to read. There was one other envelope but it did not have writing on it. The last item was a leather-bound book that had seen its share of wear and tear.

“Well” said Dennis quietly. “Hello to Miss Lizzie May Ulmer.