After much internal debate, I’ve decided to share for the first time, an excerpt of a supernatural novel I am writing. I hope to have a good first draft completed by Christmas, and I think posting will hopefully prod me into more WORK. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but essentially, a modern-day woman will solve a string of century-old murders with the aid of the victims’ ghosts. I hope you enjoy this chapter, and I value all thoughts and critique, tips, etc., especially from people who are kind enough to be reading my blog in the first place. This blog may turn into an “Artist AND Writer blog” if I don’t watch myself. Which would not be bad, I don’t think.
I hope you enjoy being the first people to read this….:)
Excerpt from “RoseHeart”
by Kathy Ferrell
Rosie & Annie
“There you are, ladies! That will be thirty five cents!” Albert Adams said cheerily as he placed the tablet of creamy sheets onto a square of brown grocer’s paper and began wrapping, being careful not to dent the corners of Annie’s latest purchase. He smiled warmly at the two girls standing at his counter, his blue eyes sparkling behind his wire-frame spectacles. “And what else will be your pleasure today?”
“Oh, yes!” Annie exclaimed, stepping forward. “I almost forgot! I want a new pencil, too!”
The old man bent to retrieve a “Pupil’s Pearl” school pencil from the box in the glass display case.
“Oh, no, Mr. Adams!” said Annie. “I’d like the shiny green pencil, please! The one for artists.” She bent her head and pointed through the glass, her two blonde braids brushing the countertop.
The old man chuckled and plucked the correct pencil from the box. He should have known.
“None but the best, eh, little miss?” he said as he cut and tied the string that bound Annie’s package of drawing paper. He dropped the pencil into a pink striped paper bag from the candy counter. Arnold hadn’t stocked this morning and he was fresh out of the regular ones. He’d have to talk to that boy. More a stableboy than a store clerk, thought Adams. He gathered the packages and handed them with a small flourish to Annie’s taller companion. The older girl gave him a very small, nervous smile and put the things in a wicker basket without a word. Shame about that girl, thought the storekeeper. Maidin’ in that house.
“That’ll make it forty-five cents all told!”
Annie took a half-dollar from a little coin purse and placed it in Mr. Adams hand. He produced a nickel from the register and handed it back to Annie. She dropped it into her purse, and the girls turned to leave.
“Hold on there,” said the storekeeper, plucking two pastel colored coconut bonbons from a big glass jar. He offered them to the girls and they both reached to take one. The smaller hand soft and pale, the bigger hand toughened and red.
“Wouldn’t look right leavin’ with a candy sack but no candy.” A big smile from both as they each took a pale yellow sweet from his palm. Giggling now, they thanked him and turned away once more. That’s more like it, he thought.
He watched the girls walk toward the door of his shop. Annie, the younger one, why she could’na been no more’n twelve and he’d be pickled if she hadn’t been wearing her mother’s lip rouge. ‘Shiny green one’, his foot. Girl hadn’t ever been to school. And the other one? She talked more to that mangy crow than she spoke to real folks. Rosie McCarty’ll never know another home, thought Adams, cleanin’ up after Annie’s mother and her kind. He wiped Annie’s fingerprint from his shiny glass as the bell over the door signaled their leaving. Never gonna come to no good a tall, he thought.
By the time Mr. Adams had went in search of the elusive Arnold, the girls were on the next block, enjoying the early summer sunshine and pausing to admire things in the shop windows of Poplar Point.
“Look there, Rosie,” said Annie, pointing again, this time at a wide brimmed hat trimmed extravagantly with a feathered dove nestled amid pale silk flowers. The hat sat perched on a stand, and arranged at the base were a pair of matching gloves and a selection of delicate handkerchiefs.
“That is surely a lovely thing,” replied the taller girl, shifting the basket and leaning in for a closer look. All of the beautiful things were displayed on a wide ivory cloth, scattered with silk flowers and delicate porcelain dishes that held pearl-headed hatpins. A graceful little hand molded of plaster reached up from the center of the display. The tiny white fingers held a little card that read:
for the vision of summer loveliness
The hat’s pale elegance and delicate tints made Rosie think of cool things that she knew. Lemonade with fresh chipped ice, the night breeze that whispered in through the attic window, and the silver-speckle moonlight under the willow tree on the Ruban Vert.
“How much do you s’pose it costs?” Annie said.
“A sight more coin than we’ve brought today,” Rosie replied.
“D’ya think Missus Dewey will buy it?” wondered her friend.
Rosie paused before answering. Mrs. Dewey had reached the age where she should be exercising a little restraint. Her once remarkable shape was now relying more and more on whalebone and laces. Rosie was the one who carried the list to Mr. Adams and fetched home the little bottles of “no-lead” hair dye and big jars of Murchison’s Bust Food. If a barrel of the stuff could be bought, Missus Dewey would have sent her back with a cart.
“I’d not be surprised,” said Rosie quietly.
“Or Mama might get it,” said Annie wistfully.
Rosie doubted that. If Lotta were given such a lovely thing, she’d ruin it in no time. She’d probably add her touch, piling on ribbons and gewgaws until it was spoiled. This time she said nothing.
They had lingered too long. A shop girl stepped out into the doorway. She smiled sweetly but her voice was hard.
“Wouldn’t you girls be happier at home?” she said.
“I was just looking at your hat,” Annie began. Rosie was already moving away.
“Mr. Antoine will be back soon, and you shouldn’t be hanging about here!” the young woman continued. “I’ll get in trouble!”
Annie stood there looking at the young woman, not comprehending. Any semblance of kindness was suddenly gone from the young woman’s face and she spoke through clenched teeth.
“Move on. We don’t sell paint here.”
“Come on, Annie,” said Rosie, taking her hand. “We’re too busy to window shop.”
Further down the street, Annie had forgotten the tone of the woman’s voice.
“I wonder how she knew I was an artist?”
The girl’s question went unanswered because Rosie was thinking her own thoughts, wondering if she might see Jim Halley patrolling the streets. She had met him one afternoon in the spring. She had been returning to the house with a box of Mr. Adams’ finest top shelf cigars and five big steaks wrapped in oiled paper.
Officer Halley was new to Poplar Point. He was talking with Mr. Murphy when she passed the newsstand. He had lost interest in the conversation and fallen into step beside her, striding along with his gloved hands clasped behind his back, not looking at her at all, but looking casually about at the treetops as if this were the most glorious day in the history of Man. He annoyed Rosie. He was going to follow her all the way home and then tell Missus Dewey that she’d done something. Some lie for which Missus Dewey would have to pay a fine so that her maid wasn’t hauled off to jail. She’d not seen him before. She knew all the cops. Missus Dewey would clout her after she’d paid him off.
But he’d only strolled alongside her for half a block, touching his fingers to his hat as they passed people, whistling casually.
“Of course, Miss, you’re aware that a young lady won’t last long smoking such cigars as those.” he said at last. There was a teasing quality in his voice, but no trace of the smirk she’d always sensed from the town’s other policemen.
Rosie stopped and looked up at his face. He leaned slightly forward and touched the bill of his hat. His blue eyes sparkled and his black mustache could not hide the small smile that was beginning at one corner of his mouth. A full smile now, and Rosie’s face grew hot. Hesitantly she smiled back.
Delighted, Halley straightened and gave a little laugh. “My prize is won!” he exclaimed. “I vowed to hold back the sunset until I’d made an angel smile upon me!”
“I said, ‘I wonder how she knew I was an artist’. She said she didn’t sell paints.”
“That’s not what she meant, Annie,” replied Rosie patiently. “She meant something else.”
She did not see Halley on the busy street. She saw the carriages of lawyers and bankers and the wagons of farmers and merchants. She saw Mr. Ferrante’s son, Lou, restocking the bin of his father’s fruit stand with little baskets of strawberries. Lou went to school. He was only ten but he spoke good English and could read and write. He was smart and good with sums. Rosie knew his mother and father understood more English than they let on, but she didn’t criticize them for that. She remembered her father telling her that he remembered his own grandfather speaking Gaelic, and she wished she could hear it. Lou was lucky.
They were almost home. The house was in sight, on the corner, under the oak.
“Let’s go to the tree before we go in,” said Annie.
They turned left and went down a little alley, past the small backyards and then they were on the grassy greenness that sloped down onto the banks of the Ruban Vert. The trees were thick here, and the specific tree that Annie had mentioned was an enormous willow that rose nearly three stories tall. It was a special place. It was quiet and clean and nice.
They stood beside the willow and watched the river slip by for a moment.
Rosie sat the basket down on the grass. Annie picked up a pebble and tossed it idly into the water. All they could hear was the gurgling river. There was no breeze, so even the willow leaves did not rustle.
“I can’t stay long, Annie,” said Rosie. “There’s potatoes need peeling. Truly’s making chicken.”
“Mama and me won’t be there tonight,” said Annie glumly. “Mr. Troy is taking us out to the house.”
Rosie said nothing. Lotta had been lording it over the over the girls for weeks now. She called herself Mr. Troy’s “Proto Jay”, whatever that meant. Lotta had been at Mrs. Dewey’s longer than any other girl. Annie had been born in the house. Rosie didn’t know how old Lotta was, but she guessed it was past twenty five. She sang. She bragged to the other girls that she was singing for the Troys and their friends. Bartlett Troy had always insisted that Annie come along.
“Let me draw your picture, Rosie!” said Annie brightening suddenly. “I won’t take long!”
Flattered, Rosie agreed. Annie began briskly arranging a place to draw. She led Rosie to a big rock jutting from the grass and asked her to sit there. She fetched the new materials from the basket. Annie spread her handkerchief on the grass, and sat down a few feet away under the shade of a nearby water maple. She arranged her tablet in her lap and pulled her little sharpener from a pocket in her dress. Twisting a fine point on the new pencil she was about to make the first mark and then paused, looking at her friend.
“What’s the matter?,” Said Rosie. “Is my hair wrong?” She pulled her single long braid of dark hair from behind her and draped it across her shoulder and over her breast. She sat up straighter. “Is this better?”
“It’s more artistic if you are holding something,” said Annie thoughtfully.
“I could get some flowers!”
“No,” said Annie quickly. “Get Edgar!”
That was a better idea. Rosie held out her arm and whistled shrilly. Almost immediately came the harsh cry, three times, of her friend. From the direction of the house, over the tree tops appeared an enormous crow. It dropped effortlessly from the sky, and landed on Rosie’s outstretched forearm. The girl laughed and stroked his glossy black head.
“That’s wonderful!” proclaimed Annie. “Will he hold still for me?” She readied her pencil.
“Not for you,” said Rosie softly. “But he will for me.” From her pocket she produced a dried cherry and fed it to Edgar. He enjoyed it and gave a satisfied little clicking sound as Annie began to sketch.
When the drawing was done, she said Rosie could look. Rosie was very pleased. Her younger friend was a gifted artist. Rosie rarely looked at herself in the mirror. She knew she was plain, and in a house full of women who relied so heavily on their appearance, Rosie was the grey mouse. But Annie’s drawing was really nice, she thought. It was a quick sketch done before Edgar had grown bored and flown away, but it captured something. She had captured happiness in Rosie’s eyes, looking at Edgar as he posed in striking black profile. Rosie’s long dark braid and clean white blouse contrasted nicely. She wanted to ask for the picture. But where would she keep it? If one of the girls found it, they would never stop laughing at her. And then they’d want Annie to draw them as well.
Annie began packing away the things. The sun had gotten lower. Truly would cluck her tongue and tell Rosie to hurry to the cellar and bring up the potatoes.
“Menfolk can’t think o’nothin’ ‘til the bellies is filled,” she often said.
Thinking of chores undone, Rosie had already started up the bank when she realized Annie was lingering behind with a strange look on her face.
“Do you want to see why I needed more paper today?” she said sadly.
Rosie stood looking at the younger girl for a long moment.
“Yes. Show me.”