Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Caskets -- When Doves Fly Excerpt

In case you missed it, here's one of my favorite scenes from When Doves Fly, my debut #histfic novel set in a Colorado gold rush town in the 1870s.

If you want more, it's available on Amazon in ebook and print!

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The caskets lay side by side. Charlotte 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 sometimes came back to life to claw their way out of their caskets.
Charlotte wanted to touch them, to check for life, but a vague fear stopped her. She stayed rooted, cold bare toes on the threshold, eyes fixed on 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 remained locked, and no one answered. Only weak cries had come from the room in the two days since Peter and Cecilia died.
Mother had fallen sick, too, but the cholera kept her bedridden for just a day. She’d devoted the next two days to nursing Peter and Cecilia—Charlotte had felt fine. In her delirium, Mother blamed herself for taking the children to the fair, but Charlotte had been the one who pestered until she agreed.
If I hadn’t, Peter and Sissy wouldn’t be in caskets. Once a middle child, now an only.
After they died, Mother locked her door, and Charlotte hadn’t seen her since. 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 return home from his business trip 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 had turned to 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. He bent over the bodies and groaned.
“No, no, no,” he chanted. “Peter … Sissy … not both ….”
Tears stung Charlotte’s eyes.
Papa whirled on her. “Where is your mother?” 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 from her mouth, but no words.
Shoving her aside, he raced upstairs. Yelling and rattling the door as Charlotte collapsed in the parlor doorway.
The hall remained quiet. She fell asleep crying, clutching Dolly close.

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