Creatively Thinking: Why I blog my novels as I write them

I don’t think a lot of people are worrying about this, but I thought I’d share today why I blog my novels as I write them (or shortly after).

It’s probably not the best marketing move to put my novels on my blog, chapter by chapter, but, well, I’ve never been good at that marketing stuff, for one, but also, I like the interaction I receive when I share my novels on my blog. The interaction is worth more me to than the money, although you might have to remind me of that when we are pinching pennies to get groceries some weeks.

I like that my handful of blog readers interact with each chapter and share with me their impressions or their ideas for how the story should unfold. Based on those impressions, and impressions of friends or family, I adjust and rewrite the story before the final publication. Or sometimes I rewrite it because I like it better. Putting the story up on my blog also forces me to finish it and to edit it chapter by chapter because one, I have “fans” waiting to read the rest of the story (okay, I have maybe 20 people reading and four that comment, but I don’t mind writing it for just those people. I’m not even kidding.) and two, it also forces me to focus on each chapter individually, write before I copy it to the blog to publish it.

I am sure some authors (am I really one of those? I don’t know. . .but it sounds good, right?) wouldn’t want to share their books on their blogs. They’d rather write them, leave them on their computer and then one day get their nerve up and send it to a literary agent, hope the agent picks them up and pitches their book to a publisher and that publisher signs them and their book is marketed to millions and then they become a millionaire. Sharing the book on their blog could mean no one will ever pay them for the book because the readers can simply read the book for free on the blog, right?

Not necessarily.

In my case, I only have about 360 blog subscribers and of those 360, only about 5 interact with me on a regular basis and only about 20 actually follow the stories I share on the blog. Not only that, but of those who might find my blog, how many of them will really want to scroll from chapter to chapter for free, versus buying the book later on Amazon in it’s completed form, or at least “borrowing it” through Kindle Unlimited?

Probably not that many.  In addition, once I’ve shared the chapters on my blog, I take down the page that links to each chapter and replace it with an excerpt and a link to my book on Amazon, or wherever else I might choose to sell them in the future. In the end, sharing the novel on my blog is a motivator for me, but also a nice distraction from other stresses in life (like the news) and from what I’ve heard from those who read it, it’s also a nice distraction from them.

I don’t expect that my novels will ever win awards, but they’re already winning me something else – a little bit of sanity and a whole lot of distraction.

And while I’m on the subject of sharing my novel on here, I have two new chapters scheduled this week: one tomorrow and one Friday.

I am in the midst of writing a new novel called The Farmer’s Daughter, but I haven’t yet decided if I will share it here as part of Fiction Friday or not. I have a feeling, though, it’s a story some of my regulars will really like. I’ve shared a little of it on here before.

It’s the story of Molly Tanner, who still lives on her parents farm at the age of 25 and wonders if there is a life for her beyond the farm. At the same time she’s pondering this, she notices that farmhand Alex Stone is paying more attention to her, but she’s not sure why. Five years older than her and her brother’s best friend, Alex is battling some demons of his own, mainly that he’s falling for Molly but he doesn’t feel like he’s good enough for her. He covers his pain from his low self-esteem and his lack of attentative parents growing up by drinking a lot and dating women.

Other characters are Molly’s brother, Jason, her parents Robert and Annie, her grandmother, Franny, and her best friend, Liz. Robert and Annie are facing their own concerns throughout the book as Robert fights to keep the family farm, which he and his brother have now turned into a farming enterprise, running.

This will be the first book in a series, but I’m not going to overwhelm you with the other characters and their backstories. At least not yet!

 

Fiction Friday: A New Beginning Chapter 4

If you want to catch the beginning of Blanche’s story, you can read it on Kindle and Kindle Unlimted.  However, you don’t have to read the first part to be able to enjoy A New Beginning.
As always, this is the first draft of a story. There will be typos and in the future, there will be changes made, some small, some large and as before I plan to publish the complete story later as an ebook. Also, sorry about the lack of indentations at the beginning of paragraphs. I can’t seem to figure out how to make that happen in WordPress.


Light, Shadows & Magic (2)Chapter 4

I ushered Jackson upstairs to his bath on the eve of his Kindergarten debut, hoping playtime with his toy boats and submarines would be short and bedtime story time even shorter. It had been a long day and my body was screaming at me to lay down and cover it with a warm comforter and quilt.

Even on the days I was beyond tired, I looked forward to tucking Jackson into bed at night, snuggling next to him and reading Winnie the Pooh or Dr. Seuss.

“Read it again, Mommy,” he said as I finished Green Eggs and Ham for the second time.

“I think we’ve read it enough, sweetheart. You need to get some rest because tomorrow is your first day of Kindergarten.”

Jackson pushed out his bottom lip. “I don’t want to go to Kindergarden, Mommy. I want to stay here with you and Grandma.”

“We’re going to miss you, but you are going to love Kindergarten. You’re going to meet new friends and learn new things and –“

“But who is going to protect you and Grandma?”

“Protect us from what?”

“From the bears in the field.”

I laughed. “What bears in the field?”

“Grandpa said he saw a bear in the field on his way to work and what if it and its family comes to the house when I’m gone?”

“Well, what would you do if you were here?” I asked, enjoying listening to the way his mind worked.

“I would get grandpa’s gun and shoot them and make those bears into a bear rug for you and Grandma to sit on and drink hot cocoa on!”

I pulled him against me, laughing as I kissed his cheek. “And we would be so happy if you did that for us, but I don’t think any bears will come to our house. Bears are as afraid of us as we are of them.”

Jackson pushed against me and buried his face into my stomach.

“I still don’t want to go to Kindergarden, Mommy. It doesn’t sound like my type of garden at all.”

I rubbed his back and leaned back against the headboard, closing my eyes for a moment as he softly cried.

It seemed impossible to me he was already six and starting school in the morning. Stroking his soft, brown hair, I thought back to the first few days after I’d brought him home from the hospital. I’d been so lost and terrified as a first-time mother at the age of 19. Mama had stayed with me a few days, showing me how to change Jackson’s diapers, pat his back to bring out burps, and rock him to sleep.

“I know it seems scary, Blanche, but it’s going to be okay,” Mama said, stroking my hair as I clung to her the day she left.

“Oh, Mama,” I sobbed, sitting on the floor, my head in her lap. “How could I have been so stupid to have a baby already? I don’t know anything about babies. What if I can’t do this?!”

“You can do this, Blanche,” Mama said softly. “I know you can. You’ve never given up on anything you’ve set your mind to and I know you love this baby. You loved him even before he was born, didn’t you?”

I nodded, remembering how I’d talked to Jackson when he was in my womb, telling him about the book I was reading, or the meal I was cooking, or what the weather was like that day.

“All you have to do is love him and it will be just fine,” Mama said, rubbing my back as I cried. “Ask God to give you wisdom and strength for each moment as it comes and do your best not to let your mind race into the future, tangling itself up in the questions of ‘what if.’.”

Mama laughed. “I think two of the worst words for a mother are ‘what if.’ Or maybe the worst three words: “But what if . . .”

The day Mama left I never felt more alone in my life. I knew Hank wouldn’t be any help taking care of a baby he hadn’t even wanted.

Peering at Hannah Harrison through the crack in the front door of our apartment, the day after Mama left, I hesitated. She looked like a model on the front of a fashion magazine – soft blond curls, curves in all the right places filling out her pencil skirt and white, fluffy sweater. I closed the door, my hand on the bolt. I didn’t want someone as well put together as Hannah to know how little I knew about life; how incompetent I was as a mother and a wife. Still, I needed someone to tell me it was going to be okay now that Mama was back in Pennsylvania with Daddy and I decided to take a chance that Hannah might be that person.

“It’s going to be just fine,” she told me, taking a screaming Jackson into her arms, sitting on our couch and laying him across her lap while she rubbed the gas out of his belly. She made it look so easy.

Her words echoed Mama’s: “You just keep loving this baby, Blanche and you’re going to be okay.”

So many decisions in my life had hinged on my love for Jackson. Leaving Hank, coming back home, the jobs I had taken, the promise I’d made to keep us both from being hurt again. When Thomas Fairchild, the cub reporter at the paper, had asked me out on a date three years ago, I’d turned him down gently but quickly. Even if I had been interested in him, I had to think about Jackson and how my dating would affect him. I couldn’t risk him getting attached to someone I wasn’t sure about; his small heart broken if the relationship failed.

I looked down at my lap and saw that Jackson had cried himself to sleep. I lightly brushed an already drying tear from his soft, ruddy cheek with my finger and studied his perfectly shaped mouth and the comforting familiarity of his boyishly round face.

A rush of panic suddenly gripped me as I studied him. Though I had reassured my child only moments before that he would love his first day of school my mind began to race with fear. The heavy ball in the pit of my stomach that had been forming for weeks, months even, had clearly settled in to stay.

I didn’t want to let him go. I didn’t want him out of the safety of my or my Mama’s care. I wanted to hold him for as long as possible, keep him with me instead of sending him off into a world full of hurt, anger and dangers.

I curled myself around his body; the body of a boy who felt too fragile and small to send off into the unknown and closed my eyes, reveling in the feel of him warm against me, wishing we could stay this way forever.

My grandmother once told me that being a mother was like walking through life with your heart outside your body. Only after I’d had a child of my own did I understand what she meant.

So many times in the months after Jackson was born I’d wondered if my parents had felt the same about me and Edith when we were young – that unending, unconditional love that only seemed to magnify each day.

“Of course we did and still do,” Mama told me at 3 a.m. one morning when Jackson was 15 months old.

Jackson had fallen asleep only a few moments before after hours of crying from teeth trying to break through his lower gum. Mama rubbed clove oil on his gum, an old trick she’d learned from her mother. Within minutes he was asleep in her arms and she was standing in the kitchen, holding him in her arms, his head against her shoulder as we talked. Leaning back against the kitchen counter, her dark hair fell loose around her shoulders, her blue robe tied closed over her nightgown.

“Seeing you in pain, hearing you cry, it was like being hurt ourselves,” Mama said. “And when you made mistakes and faced the consequences, we never rejoiced. We always felt the pain with you and wished we could make it better. Watching you make mistakes — That was just as hard, sometimes even harder. We had to let you make them, we knew that, but it was so hard.”

“It must have been really hard to know what a mistake I’d made when I left with Hank.”

Mama smiled. “Yes, but there was also a hope that maybe I was wrong. I hoped it would all work out and Hank would turn out to be better than what others said he was. If I had known how bad he really was, I would have been beside myself with worry and would have been up there dragging you home.

She laughed softly. “Now, Daddy? He never doubted Hank’s lack of character.”

I laughed too. I could almost hear Daddy telling Mama Hank was hopeless.

I sipped tea, now cold in my mug. “Sometimes I worry about being a mom because we can do everything in our power and our children can still get hurt or break our hearts. It scares me. It scares me I won’t be as good as you were at having faith it will all work.”

Mama stroked the back of Jackson’s head and swayed a little in place. “You think your daddy and I always knew what we were doing? We definitely doubted ourselves throughout your childhood and yes, definitely after you left with Hank. We wondered what we had done wrong, what we hadn’t taught you that led to you leaving without speaking to us first. We felt we hadn’t been accessible enough for you to feel like you could talk to us and talked about how we could change that in the future, once your daddy dealt with the anger, of course.”

I felt tears in my eyes, and knew exhaustion was making my emotions even more raw. “You and Daddy did such a good job with us, Mama. Maybe you didn’t feel like it after I left, but it wasn’t anything you did. It was my own selfishness and pride.” I drew the back of my hand across my eyes to wipe away the tears. “I was so stupid. How could I have been so stupid? I’m so glad Grandpa and Grandma weren’t here to see me.”

Mama stood next to me and rubbed my back with her free hand as I cried.

“Life is made up of stupid decisions that we didn’t think were stupid when we made them,” she said. “But you took responsibility for your actions, you walked away from Hank when he became violent and you’re raising your son on your own — ”

“Well, with you and Daddy’s help,” I interjected.

“Yes,” Mama said. “But Blanche, you didn’t run away from Jackson when life got tough. You set your mind to being the best mother you could for him and you’re still doing it. I think those are all things your grandparents would have been very proud of you for.”

Jackson shifting in his sleep pulled me from my memories. I laid him back on his pillow, pulled the covers around him, kissed his forehead and stood to turn out the lights.

“Protect him tomorrow, Father and most of all, protect his tiny, innocent heart.”

***

A young Hank, maybe 11 or 12 stared back at me from the photo on Marjorie Hake’s wall. I’d seen it many times over the years since I’d been bringing Jackson to visit his grandmother and each time I studied I wondered what path Hank’s life had taken to transform him from innocent to broken. I’d brought Jackson to see his grandmother after his first day of Kindergarten. He’d been excited to tell her about his day and then darted outside to play with a homemade cookie in his hand.

A teacup clinked in a dish behind me. “It seems so long ago,” Marjorie said. “A lifetime ago, really.”

“Do you ever hear from him?”

“No. Never. And I’m never sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Eloise Carter told me last year her son had seen him in a bar in Syracuse maybe two years ago and he said he was moving out west. That’s all I know.” She looked at the photo as I sat down across from her. Still. After all these years. That’s all I know about him.”

“He wasn’t always so angry and selfish, you know. He was a good boy, always willing to help me around the house, take care of his little brother, protect me from Henry. He could never make his father happy, though. Never.”

Tears pooled in her eyes. “I truly think inside he’s a lost little boy who doesn’t know how to tame the emotions raging inside him. Not that any of this excuses how he acted, how he treated you. It never will. But it is a little insight into what transformed him into who he became, I suppose. If only I’d . . .”

She sipped her tea and shrugged. “Well, that’s in the past. Nothing can be done to change the past. I’m beginning to accept that life doesn’t always turn out the way we hoped or expected. And life is getting better now, brighter even, despite all the mistakes I made and all I’ve lost. Did I tell you I joined the garden club?”

“No, what does a garden club do?”

Marjorie laughed, and pushed a strand of her chin length hair behind her ear. “We talk about gardens and what we should do with our gardens and how to grow gardens. It’s very titillating conversation.”

I sat across from her and stirred cream into my tea. “Marjorie, I’ve never told Jackson about Hank.”

She looked at me, tea cup braced between her hands. “I know,” she said. “And I haven’t either. I can’t imagine what we’d say to him. He’s too young to understand. Maybe someday, but not now. I think it’s the right thing, keeping his father a topic to be discussed when he’s older.”

Sunlight poured across Marjorie’s dining room, wallpaper with pink roses she’d had installed the year after her husband died. She wanted to change everything about her life, she said, and after the bright wallpaper and hardwood floors, she’d had her hair cut short into a modern bob. When Edith spun the chair around so Marjorie could see herself in the mirror the reaction was visceral and sudden. Her head fell into her hands and she cried at the transformation. It was a visual representation of her internal revolution.

Out the dining room window in the backyard, Jackson drove his dump trucks through the mud, the front of his shirt and jeans stained brown.

Marjorie reached over and laid her hand over mine. “I know I’ve said it before, Blanche, but thank you so much for bringing Jackson to see me. Watching him grow up has been such a blessing and has filled so many empty places in my heart.”

“Actually, Marjorie,” I said, squeezing her hand. “Our visits have done the same for me.”

A Story to Tell: Chapter 8 rewrite

Hey, everyone! I’ll be posting Chapter 10 of Blanche’s story on Friday, but I wanted to post this rewrite of Chapter 8, which very well could be rewritten again in the future because I haven’t even begun full rewrites or editing of the book. Thanks to Kat at The Lily Cafe for the suggestions for part of this rewrite.

At some point, if I get brave enough to send this story to a publisher, I’ll probably stop sharing chapters on here and send anyone following the story to an Amazon page to buy the book. *wink* But I’m nowhere near that at this point, so until then, enjoy the story, ya’ll (she added ya’ll to pretend she had an interesting Southern personality, which she actually didn’t possess at all.). And, as always, if you’re reading along, let me know in the comments! You can find a link to the previous chapters here: 


 

Chapter 8

“How old are you anyhow?” I asked Hank, laying back in the grass, looking up at the star-filled sky.

He leaned up on his elbow and grinned.

“How old do you think I am?” he asked.

“My friend Emmy says you’re like 24,” I said.

“I don’t know if it’s a good thing I look older or not.” He laughed and pushed his hand back through his hair.

“I’m 21,” he said, then laid back on the grass, his arms behind him. “But I feel like I’ve lived enough life to fill two lifetimes since the old man kicked me out.”

“Is it scary living alone?” I asked.

“Maybe at first, but not now,” he said. “I’m used to it. I like coming and going when I please, no one to tell me ‘no’ or ‘you shouldn’t do that.”

“Isn’t it lonely?”

He shrugged. “Sometimes.”

He leaned up on his elbow again and grinned at me.

“It’s not so bad lately, now that I have you,” he said.

I smiled, hands folded across my stomach as I looked at the stars.

“You know, Blanche, you’re the only one who really seems to care about what I think and wants to know about me,” he said.

I looked at him, smiling.

“I feel the same way about you,” I said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt calmer than I do when I’m with you,” he said softly. He twirled a strand of my hair around his finger as he spoke.  “You know, when I first took off on my own, I did miss Mama and my little brother. Judson – he’s my little brother – he always looked up to me. I felt bad when I came home drunk one night and he saw me. He looked so sad because I wasn’t acting like the Hank he used to know. I tried not to drink as much after that when I went to parties. But then later I got drunk and I wrecked the old man’s car and I guess that was the last straw for him. He hit me so hard that night my head vibrated. But at least he was hitting me that night and not mama.”

His voice was full of sadness. I rolled to my side, leaning my head on my arm, laying my other hand against his face.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.

“For what?” he asked.

“That your daddy treated you and your mama so awful.”

His eyes searched mine for a few moments before he leaned over me and covered my mouth with his, sinking his fingers in my hair.

“You’re a sweet, girl, Blanche,” he said as he pulled his mouth away. “I definitely don’t deserve you.”

“No, sir, you don’t,” I said, smiling as I sank my fingers into his hair and pulled his head toward me, kissing him hard.

“What the hell are you doing out here?”

My daddy’s voice, booming, cut through the silence of the night. Hank jumped back from me and I felt my heart pounding so hard I thought I was going to faint. My knees felt weak as I stood and I had to grab on to the fence to stay standing. My ears were roaring and for a moment I thought I had gone deaf from the shock. Hank stood and calmly brushed the dirt and grass from his clothes.

“Well, hey there, Mr. Robins,” Hank tried to look confident as Daddy stomped toward us in the dark.

“Hey there?! Hey there?!”

I’d never seen Daddy’s face look the way it did that night. Rage flashed in his eyes and his mouth was twisted in a grimace. He reminded me of a picture I’d seen of the devil in my grandma’s Bible one time.

“You little… ”

Daddy’s voice was practically a growl and the curse word he uttered was sharp and sent a cold chill rushing through me. I’d never heard Daddy swear before.

His fist hit Hank’s face and Hank hit the ground. Blood was trickling from Hank’s mouth when he lifted himself to his feet and I could hear daddy breathing hard.

“Don’t you ever touch my daughter again!” his finger was pointed at Hank and it was shaking.

“I wasn’t doing anything wrong.” Hank spat blood on the ground.

“Get off my property!” Daddy shouted.

“I’m not going anywhere unless Blanche wants me to. This was a private meeting,” Hank snarled back.

“You don’t have a ‘private meeting’ with a little girl!”

“She isn’t a little girl! She’s practically a grown woman!” Hank yelled back. “This isn’t the 30s, old man. Girls her age are getting married and having babies by now.”

“You son of a – “Daddy grabbed Hank by the front of his shirt and then swung at him again. Hank moved and daddy almost fell onto the ground but righted himself and started to lunge toward Hank again.

Suddenly I was angry. I was angry at Daddy for always treating me like a child. I was angry at him for punching Hank. I was angry at Mama for deciding my life for me. I was angry at Edith for always getting the attention. I was angry at the boys at school. I was angry at Hank for yelling at Daddy. I was angry at life. I didn’t want to be stuck in this town my whole life and I was sick of people acting like I was going to.

“I’m out here because I wanna be!” I shouted over Daddy and Hank, as startled as them at the angry tone of my voice.

Daddy’s face was red as he stepped away from Hank and turned to face me.

“What did you say?!” he said, half snarling, half screaming, like a rabid dog.

I’d never seen him so angry but I kept yelling anyway, my fury overriding my common sense.

“I like talking to Hank and I’m tired of being told what to do! Hank’s the only one who treats me like a real person and not a baby!”

Daddy wrapped his big hand around my upper arm and dragged me across the field toward the house.

“You were doing a lot more than talking when I came out here!” Daddy was speaking through gritted teeth. “And don’t you ever speak to me the way you did just now. Not ever!”

He whipped me around like a rag doll, looking at Hank, his voice shaking.

“Hank Hakes, you get off my property before I get my gun and show you I know how to use it!”

Hank was smirking.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Robbins. I’ll do whatever you say,” he chuckled sarcastically, turned, but then paused and turned back toward Daddy and me.

“I’ll see you another day, Blanche!” he called, only making Daddy angrier.

Daddy’s footsteps were long and brisk and I couldn’t keep up. I fell when we were almost to the house, stones cutting into my legs as Daddy continued to drag me.

“Get up!” He yelled as tears spilled hot down my cheeks.

Mama was standing in the doorway when we reached the front porch, her expression revealing shock and horror.

“My God, Alan! What is going on?” She cried reaching out for me.

“Your little girl has been sneaking around with that Hank Hakes and I’ll have none of it! I won’t have two little whores in my house!”

He tossed me at mama’s feet and walked toward his truck.

“Jessie, I am too angry to think. I’m going for a drive.”

The truck sped away, out the drive and down the dirt road by our house, kicking stones and dirt up from the tires. Hank’s truck had already disappeared down the road in a cloud of dust.

I saw Edith through my tears, standing at the bottom of the stairs. I knew she’d heard what Daddy had said about having two whores in the house. Her face was scrunched up, tears staining her face.

Mama knelt next to me and for a moment I thought she might start yelling as well. Instead she took the edge of her gown in her hand, wiping the tears off my face.

“Come on, get up,” she said. “I’ll make us some cocoa and we’ll have a talk. Edith, you come down too.”

I slumped into a chair at the kitchen table and looked at my shin, covered in dirt and blood. My hair was in my face, full of dirt.

Edith sat across from me with her arms folded across her chest. She had wiped her tears away and a small smile was playing across her mouth.

I didn’t want to be the brunt of her mocking jokes today.

“Well, at least it’s you who is in trouble this time,” she said with a sneer. “I sure as heck didn’t see that coming.”
“Shut up,” I hissed at her.

Mama handed me a wet towel then poured milk into a pan on the stove.

“Clean yourself off,” she told me sharply and sat down. “And both of you shut up.”

I saw the creases in the corners of her eyes, creases I hadn’t noticed before. Her hair had fallen out of her rollers in a couple of places and she looked tired, more tired than I had seen her look in a long time.

“So, what’s going on with you?” She said softly. “What happened out there?”

I wiped the blood from my leg and didn’t look at her. I shrugged. I didn’t want to talk about it. I was embarrassed, but more than that, I was still angry.

“Were you with Hank?” she asked bluntly.

I winced as I wiped the dirt on my leg away to reveal a small gash. Blood trickled down my shin.

I nodded as she stood to find bandages and peroxide. The medicine cabinet door slammed in the kitchen.

“What do you see in him?” she asked a few moments later, kneeling in front of me, cleaning the gash.

I grimaced as fresh tears sprung to my eyes from the pain.

“He listens to me. He doesn’t think I’m a stupid little girl and he doesn’t call me a nerd,” I told her.

“You like the attention he gives you, don’t you?” Mama asked.

I nodded, wiping tears off my face with the back of my hand.

“That attention is all well and good right now, but with someone like Hank I’m afraid it wouldn’t last,” Mama said. “He’s a lot of talk. He’s a lot of ‘right now’ but not a lot of ‘what will be.’ Do you understand what I mean?”

I didn’t. I shook my head and looked at her through the hair that was still in my face.

She pushed the strands away from my eyes and hooked them behind my ears.

“Blanche, he likes what he sees but I’m afraid he likes a lot of what he sees. I know your daddy is angry right now, but it’s because we’ve seen men like Hank before. He doesn’t come from a good background and those type of men don’t stay in one place, or with one person, for very long.”

I looked away and felt my lower lip quivering.

“I love him,” I said quietly. I hadn’t even admitted it to myself yet, but it was true.

Edith laughed ruefully.

“I knew you’d be the one to fall for the bad boy,” she said. “It’s always the quiet ones.”

“Be quiet, Edith,” Mama instructed. She turned to look at me. “You’re too young to know what love is. What you have right now is lust.”

She stood and went to the stove, poured the milk in mugs and mixed the cocoa in.

When she sat again, she leaned across the table and took my chin in her hand, made me look her in the eye.

“Blanche, you need to be honest with me right now – has Hank ever told you he loves you?”

“No,” I said softly.

“Has he – has he – talked you into doing things that only married people are supposed to do?”

Mama looked worried.

Edith looked expectant as she watched me closely over the rim of her mug, eyes wide.

I looked back at Mama.

“No, ma’m,” I said firmly. “He’s kissed me and that’s all.”

Mama studied my eyes for a few moments and let my chin go. Out of the corner of my eye I couldn’t tell if Edith was relieved or disappointed in my answer.

“Okay,” she said. “I believe you. I know you feel like you’re in love, but I agree with your daddy. You need to stay away from Hank. It might be hard, but you have to understand that sometimes we have to move past our feelings and do what we know is right. Are you listening?”

I didn’t agree with her, but I was listening.

I nodded.

“Now, you girls finish your cocoa and get back to bed. You’ve both got church in the morning and I don’t plan to let you miss it. You need it more than ever right now.”

When Edith and I started up the stairs Mama called to Edith.

“Edith, I hope you heard all that I said to Blanche tonight,” she said, firmly. “It applies to you as well.”

Edith rolled her eyes and flounced up the stairs.

“Yeah, I heard you, but Blanche is getting more action these days than me, so it’s not like you have anything to worry about,” she grumbled as she stomped into our room.