Monday, March 9, 2015

Excerpt from When Doves Fly

Today, I thought I'd offer up my first excerpt from the manuscript. When Doves Fly is a Western/Historical Fiction novel that takes place in 1870s Pennsylvania and Colorado and follows a young woman's quest for absolution and independence. It is still in editing, but I hope to get it out soon!

The caskets lay side by side. Charlotte Martin stood in the parlor doorway, a doll dangling from one hand. She had tried to make herself enter, but her feet wouldn’t move. The black crepe over the windows rippled like ghostly shadows. A glimpse of pallid skin peeked from each coffin.

What if they wake? Maggie, their cook, said people often came back to life to claw their way out of their caskets. Charlotte wanted to touch them, to wake them up, but a vague fear stopped her. She remained rooted, cold bare toes on the threshold, staring at the open boxes, waiting for the children to move. If only Mother would come down. Then I could go in.

Charlotte had tried to rouse her mother, but her parents’ door was locked and no one answered. Mother had been sick, too, but the cholera kept her bedridden for just a day. In her delirium, she’d blamed herself for taking the children to the fair.

Mother had devoted the next two days to nursing Peter and Cecilia—Charlotte had felt fine. After they died, she locked her door and Charlotte hadn’t seen her since. Only weak cries for two days after Peter and Cecilia died. Maggie had arranged the wake and the coming funeral, but went home sick—was it only the day before?—after assuring Charlotte that Papa would be home any time. Charlotte waited all night, but Papa hadn’t come.

Something moved in Peter’s coffin. Charlotte’s eyes widened and she squeezed Dolly’s arm. A fly drifted from the casket and landed again. She relaxed and released her breath. And waited.

The back door banged open. Charlotte didn’t move—she couldn’t, her limbs felt like stone.

“Eliza!” Papa’s voice rang in the silence. “Maggie?” Footsteps clattered on the wood floor until he reached the hall rug. “Charlotte! Where’s your mother? Why are the drapes…?”

His hand fell on her shoulder.

She tried to speak but her cracked lips only trembled.

A sick moan came from him, and he pushed past her into the room with the caskets and flies. “No, no, no, no,” he chanted. “Peter…Sissy…not both….” He bent over the bodies and groaned.

Charlotte’s eyes burned. Once a middle child, now an only.

Papa whirled on her. “Where is your mother?” It was more a roar than a question.

Her body shook. Why is he angry with me?

He ran past her and thundered up the stairs. Banging on a door. “Eliza…Eliza!” More heavy footsteps and he jerked Charlotte by the arm. “Is your mother sick? Where is Maggie? Or Cooper?” He bent, eyes wild, and shook her until her teeth chattered. “Charlotte, answer me!”

Sound came, but no words.

Shoving her aside, he raced upstairs, yelling and rattling the door as Charlotte collapsed in the parlor doorway.

“Papa?” She called, with no response. She fell asleep crying.