Fiction Friday: A Story To Tell Chapter 11

This is part of a serial story I share part of every Friday for Fiction Friday. Are you reading along with Blanche’s story? If you need to catch up, you can find the links to the other parts HERE, or at the link at the top of the page.

The sound of the ceiling fan barely drowned out the sound of the couple next door arguing. The humidity was stifling, the sheets sticky against my bare skin. My gaze traveled along the crack in the paint chipped ceiling above my head. I couldn’t sleep and I was hyper-aware of every sound, every smell, every touch. I felt Hank’s bare back against mine, hot, sweaty like mine and closed my eyes tight against the anxiety.

Even with Hank asleep next to me, I felt insanely alone. I missed my own room, my own bed. I missed talking with Edith. I missed Mama cooking breakfast in the mornings and Daddy sitting in his chair smoking his pipe, reading G.K. Chesterton in the evening. I missed feeling safe.

The judge’s office where Hank and I had got married was dark and smelled of stale cigars. We drove to the office before Hank had even shown me the apartment.

“I made the appointment last week,” Hank said, grinning as he parked the truck. “I knew you were going to come with me.”

My legs were weak as we walked up the steps of the courthouse, Hank’s hand tightly gripping mine. The courthouse towered above us, larger than any building this smalltown girl had ever seen.

The judge was kind, but I could feel the sting of disapproval in his gaze as it moved from me to Hank then back to me again.

“You’re sure you’re 18?” he asked me.

I nodded but didn’t speak.

“I just can’t believe we forgot that birth certificate,” Hank was saying, nervously shifting from one foot to another. “It means a lot to us that you’re doing this for us without it.”

The judge looked at Hank for a moment, then glanced out the window, appearing deep in thought.

“I’ll sign this, but I want you to know I’m not comfortable with it,” he said.

“I understand, sir, but you have nothing to worry about,” Hank said. “We’re old enough to know what we’re doing.”

I knew I wasn’t old enough to know what I was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing at all. Each time I repeated after the judge I was simultaneously asking myself if this was right, wondering if I’d regret it all.

“By the power vested in me by the state of New York, I pronounce you – “ The judge looked from Hank to me and back to Hank and cleared his throat. “Man and wife.”

When we left with the certificate we celebrated with a trip to a local diner, eating hamburgers and fries, sharing a milkshake, making plans about our future. We giggled, feeling like two young kids, which, really, we were.

Hank already had a job at the local factory and on the weekends he played and sang at local clubs for extra money. He sang to me from the stage, green eyes focused on me, so I felt like we were the only two in the room.

“Lee says I’ve got some real talent,” he told me as we walked back to the apartment one night. “He says he can get me some more gigs around town and hey – have you heard this new song by Hank Williams? It’s great! Lee played it for me at the club last night when I stopped after work. I’m going to try to learn it so I can play it at my next gig.”

His eyes lit up when he talked about his music and I loved to see him happy. I thought we’d always be happy like we were that first six months; late nights at the club, kissing and laughing as we fell into bed, bodies intertwined.

I started to enjoy cooking for him, making sure his food was hot and on the table when he got home from work like Mama had done for Daddy. I walked to a small market two blocks from our house and bought ingredients for dinner, never exactly sure what I was doing or how to cook it, learning as I went.

Hank would tell me I was a wonderful cook, even if I burned it, grabbing me around the waist, pulling me into his lap to kiss me.

When Hank was at work, I washed his work clothes in a small washing basin and dried them on a line that rolled out between the buildings.

As the days went by, I began to realize I was becoming exactly what Mama had said I would become. I loved being with Hank and I loved when he said I was a good cook, even though I knew I wasn’t. I washed his clothes, did my best to keep the apartment clean, but I’d left home to show Mama and Daddy I could be more than they thought I could be and now I was turning into exactly what Mama said I would be.

“I can’t sleep.”

Hank’s voice broke through my thoughts.

“Me neither.”

Hank rolled over to his back and slid his arms behind his head.

“I don’t know, maybe I’m never going to do anything with my music,” he said. “I hate that factory job. It’s wearing me down, Blanche.”

“You’ve only been there six months,” I said. “I’m sure it will get better. And the music will come. You said Lee said you’re great and I already know you are.”

I leaned down over him and covered his mouth with mine.

“You always know how to make me feel better,” he said when I pulled away.

He reached up and sank his hands into my hair and pulled my head down for another kiss.

“Get over here and take my mind off things, girl.”

He turned toward me and pulled me against him, laughing, kissing me fully on the mouth. I closed my eyes and thought about how I felt like I could never be happier than I was right now – his hands gently caressing me, his skin warm against mine.


I pressed the side of my face against the tiled floor of the bathroom and closed my eyes, my body curled up around the toilet. The coolness of the floor against my face was welcome after a night of throwing up. The vomiting had been ongoing for two weeks and was draining me of my energy. I knew it was more than a stomach bug. My belly felt empty and full at the same time. When I ate I rarely kept food down and the reflection looking back at me in the mirror each morning was pale and gaunt.

I knew something was horribly wrong, but I was too afraid to visit a doctor. I was afraid to call Mama or Daddy, Edith or Emmy. I was afraid even to pray. I had convinced myself God was punishing me for my sins. Hank and I had been married six months and I still hadn’t asked God to forgive me for leaving my family and running away with Hank.

“Blanche, you need to go to a doctor,” Hank said, standing in the doorway of the bathroom, groggy and leaning against the door frame. “You can’t keep sleeping and throwing up all day and night. Maybe he can give you something to make it stop.”

Later that morning I staggered into a doctor’s office, frail and my hair uncombed.

“Make it stop?” The doctor looked at me with a bewildered expression. “No, I can’t make it stop, but your sickness should go away in a month or so as you move out of the first trimester.”

I stared at him blankly. “First trimester?”

“You don’t get it, do you?” he asked a clipboard in his hand.

I shook my head, afraid if I opened my mouth, I’d throw up on him.

He placed a bottle of pills in my trembling hand, closed my fingers around it with his hand and looked me squarely in the eyes.

“This should help the nausea,” he said, his words slow and even. “You’re about three months along if the information you gave me is correct. Your due date is about seven months from now.”

Then, as if to reiterate the point he was trying to get across to me, he said, “You’re pregnant, young lady. Congratulations.”

I opened my mouth to speak and promptly threw up on his shoes.

No one had ever told me how it felt to have a baby growing inside. We didn’t talk about those things in my family. Maybe Mama would have told me when I got older – if I had waited, but I hadn’t, and Hank had been the one to show me what men and women did when they were married. I knew that’s how babies were made because I’d read about it in books, but I didn’t think it would really happen to me, not until I was ready, not this soon.

I walked back to the apartment, stopping three times to throw up in garbage cans or along the sidewalk along fences. Inside the apartment I gingerly took my coat off and stumbled to the couch, laying across it on my back.

“So, what did the doctor say?” Hank asked, walking out of the bedroom, rubbing his eyes.

I laid my arm across my eyes, gulping back bile, my stomach empty of the breakfast I’d tried to eat that morning. I sat up slowly and looked at him, trembling.

“He says I’m pregnant,” I said, terrified at the words.

Hank looked at me, incredulous. I could smell a mix of bitter and sweet in the room.

“You’re what?”


“How did you let that happen?” he snapped.

I looked at him, shocked.

“I – I didn’t let it,” I stammered. “It just happened.”

I suddenly felt overwhelmed with exhaustion and anger.

“It’s not like you didn’t have anything to do with it,” I said sharply.

He walked toward the kitchen, snatched a half-empty bottle of whiskey from the counter and gulped some down, wiping his hand across his mouth.

“I don’t want to take care of any baby,” Hank said, anger thick in his words.

He drank more of the whiskey, his eyes narrowing, slightly glazed, as he looked at me.

“Is it even mine?” he asked suddenly.

I looked at him, trembling now, my head spinning. Did he really think I was seeing someone else behind his back? I had started attending an evening class at a small community college, studying to become a secretary, about a month after we had arrived and when I wasn’t there I was at the library. The teacher of the class had accepted me even though I didn’t have my high school diploma, telling me we’d work out how I would pay for the classes later.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

“I don’t know what you do here while I’m at work,” he snapped. “Do I? You could be doing anything.”

He stood over me, a smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“It probably isn’t even mine,” he said. He repeated it, pacing in front of me as if he’d struck on an idea and was thinking how to use it. “It probably isn’t even mine.”

He tossed the empty whiskey bottle at the wall behind my head and it shattered, glass raining around me. I screamed in terror and fell to the floor on my knees, my hands over my head.

His fingers encircled my upper arm and he pulled me up to look him, his eyes wild.

“That’s it isn’t it? It isn’t even mine!” He shouted the words at me. “Maybe you’re just a whore like your sister.”

His face was twisted in a terrifying scowl and I turned my head from the overwhelming smell of alcohol on his breath.

“You’re just a little whore, aren’t you? Aren’t you?”

He was shouting and he pulled his hand back to hit me.

I closed my eyes, turning my face away from him, waiting for the blow. He wasn’t the Hank I had fallen in love with. He had turned into someone I didn’t even know – a monster with a beautiful face.

The blow never came.

He let go of my arm and I fell to the floor on my side, sobbing. I looked up and his hard expression had softened. He stumbled back a few steps, drawing his hand across his face, shaking his head as if to shake himself sober.

“I’m sorry, Blanche,” he said softly. “I’m drunk. I don’t know what I’m saying. I’m sorry I raised my hand to you. I don’t want to hurt you or .. or..” His eyes drifted to my stomach. “Or the baby.”

His gaze stayed on my stomach for a few moments, then he looked away, rubbing his hand across his face again, then through his hair and down the back of his neck.

“I’m going out for a while,” he said hoarsely. “We’ll talk about this when I sober up.”

The door clicked closed behind him, between us, and I sat at the kitchen table, laid my head on my arms and cried.

A story to tell Chapter 9

Have you been following along with Blanche’s story? Let me know in the comments! To catch up to the story find the links to the other chapters at the end of this one.


Chapter 9

The few weeks after Daddy caught me were what I would call overwhelmingly tense. He didn’t speak to me. He didn’t speak to Edith. He barely spoke to Mama.

He left for work early and came home late. Dinners were silent and then he went to his chair to read his paper. I went to my room to do my homework or disappear inside a book.

Edith was quiet as well. She barely looked up from her plate at dinner. I knew she was thinking a lot about what Daddy thought of her. I hadn’t seen her flirting with boys as much lately, even though they flirted with her.

I listened to Daddy at first. I didn’t see Hank and he didn’t try to see me. I went to school and came home, helped Mama with the chores, went to church and did my best to be the Blanche I’d been before Daddy had caught me. I even visited that Bible study Lillian had suggested I attend, and I tried my best to really listen to the stories the women shared.

“Ladies, did we all get a chance to read the chapter in Proverbs about a virtuous woman?” Fran Sampson asked opening her Bible.

All the women opened their Bibles and I opened mine. I read:

Proverbs 31:10-31 “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.  She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.  She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.”

I decided not to comment too much, unsure what it was all supposed to mean. It sounded like to be a real woman I needed to be perfect and make wool. I couldn’t even sow, let alone make wool. And what did it mean to “girdeth her loins?” What were loins? It all sounded fairly ridiculous to me.

The women around me, most of them much older, nodded and smiled in agreement. Apparently, it made sense to them, then why couldn’t I figure it out?

“What do we think about this verse?” Fran asked, looking around the room.

I looked around the room too, hoping someone would enlighten me.

“Well, of course, it is probably unrealistic to believe we can live up to all of this, but it’s a wonderful guideline,” April Spencer said encouragingly.

April always had a sweet smile, perfect white teeth, blond hair, milky-white skin. Her daddy had been a farmer and her husband was a farmer and she looked like she should be on an ad for dairy products.

“It’s more of a goal to strive toward, something to work toward, rather than a list of how we need to be, I believe,” Lillian said.

The women around the room nodded in agreement and I felt a little more relieved about the passage, even if I didn’t understand all the words.

I decided I would think about the beginning of the passage: “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

I thought I could handle that much, at least, when I got married. I could “do no harm” and I could make sure a husband could always trust in me.


I was walking with a basket full of baked goods Mama had asked me to take to the neighbors the evening before the last day of school when Hank pulled up in his truck. I was about a half a mile from home, on the dirt road, and along the edge of the Worley’s hay field, the grass high.

“I’ve missed you,” he said as he drove along next to me.

“I can’t talk to you,” I said, keeping my eyes on my steps as I walked.

“Haven’t you missed me?” he asked.

I had, but I couldn’t tell him.

“Come on, Blanche. I haven’t seen you in weeks. Go for a drive with me.”

I kept walking, trying to ignore him.

“Your daddy won’t find out. We’ll drive down by the covered bridge.”

I shook my head.

I wanted to be the good girl again. It had been easier when I was the good girl. Daddy had loved me when I was the good girl.

“Not now, Hank.”

“Suit yourself, but I’m going to try again,” he said and sped up, driving past me, his truck disappearing down the dirt road in a cloud of dust.

He did try again, two weeks after school ended. I had taken a walk to try to decide if I should apply for a summer job at the library and to think about what I wanted to do after I graduated the next year.

This time when he pulled up, I looked up from the road and our eyes met. I felt a funny feeling in my stomach, a mix of fear and excitement.

He was as handsome as he’d ever been.

“Come on, Blanche,” he pleaded. “I have to see you. Just take a little drive with me. I miss our talks and want to see how you are..”

I hesitated. I thought about Bible study and how we’d talked about resisting temptation. I felt like God wasn’t helping very well with keeping temptation from me.

“I can’t talk long,” I said.

Hank’s grinned. “I’ll take any time with you I can get.”

When I climbed in the front seat Hank’s smile sent heat rushing through me. He leaned in and kissed me hard. I knew I shouldn’t lean into the kiss, but I did, reaching out and sinking my fingers into his soft, brown hair. It felt so good to hold him and to be held by him. My body reacted as he opened my mouth under his and clutched at my hair.

“Girl, I’ve missed that mouth,” he said breathlessly, kissing me again.

We spent an hour kissing and talking under the covered bridge, his hands gliding where they shouldn’t be, but me liking it and reveling in the feel of his mouth on my skin. I was starting to understand what Edith had meant that night when she said that one day I’d understand how nice it was to have a man who paid attention to me.

“We can’t ever be apart that long again,” he said, leaning back to look at me. “What have you been up to?”

He kissed my neck.

“Trying to decide what I want to do after high school,” I told him, closing my eyes.

“What do you mean what you want to do?”

His mouth moved to my earlobe.

“Like, what career will I have,” I said, distracted with his hand gliding up my leg. “Mama says maybe I will be a housewife like her, but I don’t know if that’s what I want to do. I want more – you know?”

“I do know, yes,” Hank said leaning back to look at me. “I want more too. I want to get out of this area. I want to be away from all the people who tell me who I should be and who I never will be.”

He sat up, laid his arm across his propped up knee.” Why don’t you come with me? If you’re going to be a housewife, you can be my housewife.”

I laughed a little as he grinned.

“You can cook me some good food and wash my clothes and I’ll make crazy love to you,” he said.

“Is that a proposal?” I asked with a roll of my eyes. “If it was, it wasn’t a very good one you know.”

Hank laughed.

“What if it was a proposal?” he asked, flipping a piece of my hair off my shoulder with his finger.

I shook my head and laughed.

“Hey, girl, I’m serious.”

I looked up at his face and I felt weak. His expression was serious, his eyes watching me intently.

“Oh, Hank – I’m too young to get married,” I said softly.

“You’re not too young. You heard what I told your daddy. A lot of girls your age are already having babies.”

Hank grinned.

“You wanna have babies with me some day?” he asked.

I swallowed hard. I’d never thought about having babies. I shook my head.

“Not really,” I said honestly. “Or at least not now.”

“If I ever have babies, I want it to be with you,” Hank said, lightly touching the buttons of my shirt then trailing his fingertips along my collarbones

I only knew a little about where babies came from, and I knew what Hank wanted to do might lead there. I wasn’t ready for babies. I didn’t even like holding someone else’s baby.

“I have to go,” I said abruptly and pushed his hands away.

“Come on, Blanche. Just a little longer,” he kissed my neck and slid his hand across my stomach under my shirt.

I pushed his hands away again and stood up abruptly.

“My parents are going to wonder where I am and I’m pretty sure my daddy was serious about that gun,” I said.

Looking down at him I felt a rush of warmth move from my chest into my cheeks. He was so handsome, and I still couldn’t figure out what he saw in me. I knew if he asked me to marry him again I would say yes, just so I could spend my life looking at him.

But I didn’t want him to ask me to marry him again. My head was spinning. I was as confused about my present as I was about what I wanted for my future.

I knew Hank didn’t want to, but he drove me back to the end of our road, kissing me hard before I jumped out of the truck, like he wanted me to know who I belonged to. I smoothed my hair down and pulled the bottom of my shirt over the top of my skirt as I walked back to the house, ready to be the good girl for Mama and Daddy again.

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8


My characters wake me up at night to write their stories

My characters wake me up at night to write their stories. I know. I sound crazy. I’m sure you’re wondering if I hear other voices in my head too. Sometimes, but that’s another post for another time. Seriously, though, I’ve heard other writers – you know, real ones – say their characters tell their own stories and I quite frankly, thought those writers might be a bit nuts. But then it happened to me.

Not quite like it did for the main character of a movie I watched this past week but almost. Karen Gillan in Not Another Happy Ending actually sees her protagonist and has conversations with her, which I don’t, yet, but still, I find scenes for my books flowing through my brain at the oddest times of the day and I have to stop what I’m doing and go write it down before I forget (that reminds me, sorry, husband, for dropping that couch on your toe the other day. I’m kidding. This didn’t happen. It was a table.).

Writing fiction is fun and a wonderful creative release but it is also flat out exhausting. I’m up late at night after the kids are asleep and sometimes early the next morning to write my thoughts down. And then one night this week I woke up in the middle of the night to write something down and it was like my character woke me up and whispered: “I want some happiness. Write me some happiness.”

So I did and I paid for it the next day when I sat in a half-asleep stupor while the kids asked me for lunch and popsicles and to play with them and “look at this funny meme I found!”

In one of the ending scenes of No More Happy Endings, Gillan’s character says: “You write because it gnaws away at your insides if you don’t.”

That’s how it has felt the last few months and probably even years for me. I would guess these stories have been in me for years but I’ve ignored them to do things I thought would bring me money to help support our family – working for newspapers, freelance writing, photography.

I don’t think what I’m writing now will bring me money or fame (which I don’t want at all!) but it seems to be bringing me something much more important – the satisfaction of voices finally heard and listened to, stories finally being told.

Tell Me More About . . . Maureen Wright, children’s book author

I remember the first time my son and I read a Maureen Wright book. It was “Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep,” the sweet story about a bear who is being reminded by Old Man Winter that he needs to sleep for the winter, but doesn’t seem to be able to hear him, so instead Big Bear ends up on a middle of the night adventure.

Each night we read it, we couldn’t only read it just once. My son would ask for it to be read again and again and it was one of the few books I didn’t mind repeating. The story is creative and catchy and the artwork by Will Hillenbrand is mesmerizing. Flash forward to now and there are now three Big Bear books and a collection of other books by Maureen that I now read to my 4-year-old daughter. Her current favorite is also Maureen’s best seller, “Sneezy the Snowman.”

What’s special about Maureen’s stories, beyond the fact they are a delight to read and the artwork is so stellar, is that they are written by someone who lives in the town my children and I now live in. Even though I’ve seen her often, either reading her book at the library, or selling her copies personally at local events, I still feel like I’m meeting a celebrity each time I see her, maybe because her stories have been such a part of the bonding time with my children.

I’m so thankful to Maureen for taking a few moments to answer some questions for this weeks Tell Me More About . . . feature and that I’m able to introduce her special books to my readers.

45095165_166161841001041_1170191499384586240_nCould you tell us a little bit about yourself, such as where you grew up, family, etc. ?

I grew up in Athens, PA. I met my husband, Don, at Main Elementary in Athens in fourth grade. We have three grown sons, two daughters-in-law, and three little grandsons We live in Athens Township in the old farmhouse his great-grandparents built in the 1880’s.

When did you realize you enjoyed writing?
I was in third grade when I knew I wanted to be a writer I was doing a writing homework assignment. I even remember where I was sitting in the house that I grew up in when this feeling came over me — an awareness that I loved to write.

 What made you decide to write books for children?

I loved reading books to my children when they were young It was my favorite thing to do with them.

What inspired you to write the Big Bear series?

I am a lot like Big Bear. We both usually think we are right and most of the time we are both wrong!

Which of your books seems to be the most popular among children?

“Sneezy the Snowman” is my best seller. I recently received a framed copy of the book from my publisher because it has sold over 100,000 copies. It was totally unexpected. At the time, I was waiting for my niece to mail me a picture frame. When I opened the package, I wondered, “Why did Anna put “Sneezy the Snowman” in the frame?” Then I read the plaque on the frame.

 What authors have inspired you over the years?

I have been inspired by any well-written rhyming book.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?

If I have a story I’m working on, I am excited to get out of bed in the morning to work on it. I read aloud my stories dozens and dozens of times to get the rhythm right. Whenever my cat Juanita hears me, she runs to my side and sits on the arm of the sofa. She is always the first one to hear my stories.

Do you have future projects coming up? Books or otherwise?

My next book is “Super Rooster to the Rescue” due out in August of 2020. Rob McClurkan is the illustrator. It will be my tenth picture book.

 Anything else you would like people to know about you or your books?

I love reading to children and encouraging them to follow their dreams. I was rejected by publishers for twenty years before an editor, Margery Cuyler at Marshall Cavendish, took me under her wing. I will always be grateful to her for pulling my story out of “the slush pile.” (Unsolicited manuscripts on an editor’s desk.)

Do you know someone you think would be great for my Tell Me More About . . . feature? Maybe that someone is you! You, or the person you suggest, doesn’t need to be from my area to be featured. You can send any suggestions for features to or use the contact form at the top of the page.