Oops! I somehow forgot that yesterday was Monday, so chapter 9 from my novel is a day late. Please excuse me!
Previous chapters and the amazon link to my novel follow the excerpt.
In other news, I will be having a reading and book signing for “The One That Got Away” on September 30th at 12:30 in the Starbucks located at 457 Avalon Park N. Orlando FL 32828. If you are in the Orlando area, please stop by!
When I awoke from the Alice Dream, I awoke with a mission. I knew what I had to do. The anxious confusion and disbelief didn’t seem to be the point anymore. Immediately upon awakening I began rummaging through the half packed boxes in my bedroom until I found a partially used spiral notebook. Anna was all up into what I was doing.
“Mama, wadar you looking for?”
“Well, right now, a pen,” I answered absently.
I didn’t answer. I was embroiled in my search for a writing utensil. There must be an obscure place somewhere that everyone’s lost pens congregate. Along with the missing sock mates.
“Mama!” Anna was insistent.
“Calm down, Missy,” I retorted. “I am going to write a letter.”
I was seated on the floor at this point pulling office type objects from a box. I paused for a moment and looked at my child. “Well, Anna, that’s a good question. I’m not actually sure yet, but I need to get started anyway.”
“I will get my color books and crayons,” Anna stated matter-of-factly. She propelled herself out of the room using a skip-hop combination step.
I could feel a headache creeping in from the back of my brain as I finally put my fingers around a pen. I was never much interested in writing but it seemed to make sense to me to at least jot down notes about my dreams until I figured out who they were for. Perhaps a letter would be best since I really was not much of a talker. It seemed weird that I actually felt the need to act upon this urge. But then again, why not? I decided that I would feel less stressed about it if I wrote it all down instead of having it float around in my head. For better or for worse my reality seemed to be changing.
I became quite dedicated to jotting as many details as I could remember concerning the dreams of Roese and Alice. I would often go back to record pieces that I had forgotten previously. It seemed that my memory was not what it used to be. I used to have an excellent memory. It was very linear and I had been able to access extreme detail with only a quick and pointed backward thought. Now there were gaps as if there were broken bridges in my mind between thoughts. I would be traveling along a memory and be missing parts of the scenery. Even worse, I would suddenly come to a place where I was grasping blindly to find the next connection on the memory path. I would need to retrace my steps and concentrate on what I did remember in an effort to reattach the missing parts. Normally, this technique was not successful. More often, the errant memory piece would pop into my mind at a completely unrelated moment. Some of the memory pieces never reappeared and seem to be lost in the recesses of my mind, unable to come forward.
For the next couple of weeks my dreams were mostly deep and dreamless or they were about you. The dreams of you depicted situations that were either extremely joyous or extremely harrowing, nothing in between. I would awake exhausted and more than a little wistful and anxious. I almost tried to call you twice but my fragile resolve crumpled imagining the cold rejection in your voice. So much to be said between us that nothing could be said at all. I had to steel myself, mop up the mess and put it all back in the box and securely latch the lid. Then I stopped dreaming of you and started dreaming of Alice again.
My second dream of Alice began with me being tucked apprehensively in a new bed with a new quilt that had been embroidered by my aunt. There were fresh new pillows and I was wearing a starchy white nightdress sewn by my mother. The lace collar was itchy on my neck. I had been married that day and was waiting for Joshua. I supposed that he was in the outhouse, although he had only told me that he needed to attend to some business and would be along presently. It crossed my mind at that moment that there would not be outhouses where we would be going. I wondered how we would manage that sort of thing with all of those people on the wagon train. My mind wandered to the prospect of sleeping in the same bed with Joshua as my husband. I was used to sleeping with Polly. The thought of sleeping with a man was more than a little uncomfortable to me. It seemed unfathomable that it would be so from this point forward. How long would it take for me to be at ease with him in my bed? For me to sleep well without worry of accidentally touching him in the night? And then there was that other thing. A few days ago Mama had taken me aside and told me that there was something very important that she needed to speak with me about. Polly had been very put out that she was not allowed to be included in the conversation. Mama had told her that it was not appropriate for her tender ears. This comment made her all the more determined to glean this information and made me wonder anxiously what it could possibly be that only I was able to hear. Mama grew quite cross at Polly and sent her to help Mrs. Lewis in the kitchen. Polly protested and pouted, but in the end she stomped off to the kitchen knowing that she had no other choice. Mama told me to sit on the sofa and to my surprise she latched the parlor door. When she seated herself next to me her expression looked as though she had eaten a bushel of lemons. I waited apprehensively as she calmly and slowly poured tea for us. The only other time that I remembered her seating me thus to speak to me was when I had first begun my menstruation and was convinced that I was near death. She had explained to me that I was not in fact near death, but that it was merely a natural process that God had cursed women with. Immediately afterwards I had confided this secret to Polly so that she would not be taken by fear and surprise as I had. I clenched my fingers as unobtrusively as possible as Mama prepared herself to speak. She was a woman of few words and this clearly was a subject that she was not comfortable with.
“Alice, there is a certain duty that a woman must allow her husband that will seem unnatural and shocking to you…as it does to all women of proper background. It is the necessary act that is needed to create children.” She paused to gather additional words. I saw that a blush was creeping into her cheeks. Now I was quite curious. I had asked her about this process years ago but had been thoroughly rebuffed from ever asking again.
“You know I don’t care to share these sorts of things,” she continued, “However, as a young, newly married maid I was quite distraught when your father…” she cleared her throat and began again. “My mother did not warn me of the nature of this act. She merely told me that as a wife I was to do whatever my husband asked of me. Of course that made sense to me, but when confronted with this act I was certain that this could not be included. I was quite appalled and out of my head about the whole business. I do not want this for you.”
I could not imagine my mother out of her head about anything. Now I was burning with curiosity and anxiety. What could it be? I forced my hands to be still and my features to appear patient as she took a moment to sip her tea. She held her cup for what seemed like an eternity before setting it almost silently on the table.
“A man and a woman’s private areas must be joined to make a child. You must allow him to do this. He will know what to do. There will be pain the first time. And bleeding. The times thereafter will not be painful, but must be tolerated.” She patted my hand briefly and gazed at me almost sadly. The gaunt, weary woman retrieved her tea cup and rose steadily. “I will ask you not to share these cares with your sister.” She turned and walked slowly to the door. After unlatching it, she gave me a small, half smile before leaving me to contemplate this new information.
I stared unseeing at the closed door trying to imagine how two people would perform this act. And to allow a man…Joshua to see my private areas? And for me to see his? How odd for God to have it so! Of course Polly had insisted that I share every detail of our mother’s conversation. But I actually didn’t. I felt that I didn’t have enough information about the topic to impart it properly. This explanation did not go over well with Polly. She wheedled, insisted, and finally threw a tantrum complete with tears and then wouldn’t speak to me for a day. Polly. How I would miss Polly. I stroked the locket that she had given me as a wedding gift. Inside was a tiny picture that our mutual friend Andrew Huff had painted. It depicted Polly and I sitting under our tree in the meadow. In a little over a week’s time Joshua and I would be departing to a town in Northern Virginia to meet up with some other families that would be traveling with us to Sioux Falls. We would be adding additional families along the way. They said it would be much safer to travel in large numbers because of the Indians. My stomach turned wretchedly. I had eaten more than my fill at the wedding. The combination of the food, the coming departure, staying with Joshua’s parents and my imminent new bedroom experience combined to make me queasy. I heard Joshua speaking softly outside the door to his mother. Try as I may, I was not able to ascertain the content of their conversation. Joshua opened the door quietly and peeked in.
“Alice, are you awake?” The candlelight stirred and flickered as he pushed the creaking door wider. I tensed slightly and wanted to scratch frantically at the beautiful lace edging of my nightdress.
As he walked into the room I noticed that he was wearing night clothes. He stood by the side of the bed for a moment looking at me like I was some sort of delectable dessert. I almost giggled at the silly thought in my head, but I didn’t. I nervously twisted the end of my long braid with my thumb and finger. He pulled the quilt back and his eyes lingered on my bare leg. Somehow my nightdress had hiked up to show one of my calves and the edge of my pantalets. I hastily pushed my nightdress back into its’ proper place. Without looking at my face he spoke huskily.
“You will need to remove those…your pantalets.