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.