I took a long break from my blog to work on my novel. I just finished the first draft, and will begin the rewrite in earnest on December 1. In February, I'll go to a writing conference in that ever-hope of finding an agent or a publisher who believes in me. So there will be another long break from the blog. If you're curious, here are the opening pages to the novel. It's called The Murder Of Cora March. Hope you like it.
Chicago December 1910
My father says we have to move the body and come up with a story before anyone finds out. I find that very odd. Not the story part, I am used to stories, but the part about the body. Just an hour ago, that body was Mother, but now she’s gone. Her soul hissed out like steam from a kettle. I cross to the object who was Mother but now is The Body. Papa says hurry and I do. “The police will be here soon and we must be ready,” he says. He does not know that the police only come to the Packinghouse District to drink and to open their trousers.
There isn’t time for me to see the room through my father’s eyes, but I do anyway. It is easier to see the room than it is to look at the deep red staining my hands and dress. The drops on the floor that start small and blossom, like crimson fireworks. I don’t look at her boots with the many small buttons. At her torn stockings and too-short skirt. At her sad, exposed bosoms, like white dough gone too long to rise. I don’t look at her face and her open eyes, and the red blooming along her front. I look at the room while Papa scrubs my hands with a stiff brush and cold water.
There is my straw mattress in the corner. The postcard I would stare at hidden underneath. The paper shade that she pulled to block me from sight. The iron bed with the mattress that smelled of damp earth and the sea. The wallpaper is curling in the upper right corner as if it’s a snake shedding its skin. There are playbills nailed to the walls. The places Mother went to, maybe, in the beginning. The places she dreamed of going later. The places she’ll never go to now.
My hands burn.
“Lillian,” he says. His words are molasses. “You must change. Do you have anything else you can wear?”
I cannot speak. I am metamorphosing like the bugs in the biology book I used to read. My words are a rock in my throat. I shake my head.
“Is this all you have?” he asks and I can hear the sorrow clinging to him. “She left home for…” Now Papa has no words either. Maybe he is metamorphosing too.
He squeezes my hands in his. He has worker hands. Firm and rough and warm, but I am not afraid of his hands. He still thinks I am just a girl.
I point to the dresses she has hanging on the door. There are two. One looks like a costume, and I suppose it is; it is meant to be taken off quickly. He grabs the light blue one, the summer dress. This was the dress she wore when she took me from him. It is stained and torn, the hem thick with mud and horse dung. Once, it was the color of the Michigan sky over the bay, its ruffles like whitecaps surfacing. The blue is more grey now and it smells of loss. “Put this on,” he says. “I will tend to…” He turns away from me, for propriety, I guess, and I try to stop the giggle from bubbling. He thinks there are still things left for me to hide.
I dress. What I’m wearing now is no better than a sack and it pools at my feet. I step out of it, and into the dress that once hung to my mother’s curves. The dress’s bustle is long gone now and it floats on me. I breathe with relief. It does not fit me. Her curves are in the wrong places, so maybe there is hope that I will not grow into her shape.
We have lived here for a year. I was a child when we first got here, and I am leaving transformed. Worse than becoming a woman, I have become a monster. I know it is worse because I am glad of it. In the blue stained dress, I am a demon, and I am smiling because we are free of her.