REWRITTEN SAMPLE CHAPTER from the novel-in-progress, “ME DEAR LOVE”

I’ve been busily writing and rewriting parts of this novel.  My goal this weekend is to move past this stuff and jump into some new chapters.  Move ahead.  In the meantime, I thought I would share this sample (rewritten since the last post). I did a cut and paste and the formatting didn’t translate well.

 

**Badger, Newfoundland. March 10, 1959*
The night Theresa told her parents she was pregnant she barely touched her food. Hot baked beans with pork rinds and molasses; her favourite. She pushed it around her plate, sick with nervousness. Six o’clock came. Then seven. Her boyfriend, Albert, had promised to be there by four o’clock but it was obvious he wasn’t going to show.
She thought about putting it off but she was already 12 weeks along and just starting to show.
“Not gonna finish your meal?” her mother frowned.
“Eat up,” her father commanded.
Lillian, Theresa’s 14-year-old sister had cleaned her plate and was already halfway through a warm piece of mincemeat pie.
“D’ya have homework Lillian?”
Lillian shook her head and glanced at Theresa. She wished she could quit school too, but her mother wouldn’t hear of it.
“You’re the smart one. Keep studying and you could be a secretary or something.”
“Theresa’s not in school. What will she be?”
“She’ll be someone’s wife,” her mother had said.
Theresa stood and brought her plate to the counter where she wrapped it with Saran Wrap and put it in the fridge. Her mother ran warm water and piled the dirty dishes into the sink. Theresa’s hands shook so badly she had to take special care not to drop one. Finally, she took a deep breath and turned to face her mother.
“I got to tell ya something.”
“G’wan then,” her mother said. Theresa’s tongue froze.
“Well, what is it?” her mother said sharply. She rinsed off the last dish with hot water and passed it to Theresa to dry.
Theresa’s younger sister, Lillian, flounced through the kitchen holding her pajamas and house coat.
“I’m gettin’ in the tub!” she sang but stopped short when she saw the look on Theresa’s face.
“Are you okay?” she asked, Lillian was 14 years old, two years younger than Theresa.
“I’m pregnant,” Theresa said. The colour drained from her mother’s face. Lillian stayed rooted in place, her mouth hung wide open.
“Edgar, get in here this minute! Your daughter has something she wants to say to you.”
Theresa wanted to die right there on the spot.
“What? What’s so important?” he asked. Theresa’s legs shook. Her hands shook. Her heart pounded in her chest. She looked at her father, strong and tall, waiting patiently.
“WELL?” her mother shouted. “TELL HIM!”
Theresa looked away.
“I’m pregnant,” she said quietly.
Her father was momentarily speechless.
“You’ve committed a mortal sin,” her mother cried.
Her father shook his head and shouted , ”NO! This can’t be. How’d you know for sure?”
Both parents stood wide-eyed, shocked.
“I went to the doctor,” Theresa said quietly, her face crimson. She’d asked her friend, Virginia, to get an appointment with their doctor because she couldn’t bear facing her own. She thought he’d examine her belly and order a blood test. She didn’t know she’d have to undress from the waist down and lie flat on a papered table. She kept her ankles and knees pressed firmly together until the doctor forced her feet into the cold, metal stirrups. Theresa had closed her eyes, trying to conjure pleasant images. Instead, she recalled stories overheard from friend’s of her mother’s.
I was in labour for three straight days.
I needed ten stitches ‘cause I ripped so much.
I pushed so hard I burst every blood vessel in my face.
“GET THE HELL OUTTA MY HOUSE!” her father shouted. Theresa knew her strict Catholic parents would disown her and thought she was ready for their wrath.
Lillian dropped her pajamas onto the kitchen floor and grabbed Theresa by the elbow. “What do you mean get out? Where’s she gonna go?”
Theresa covered her eyes and cried. Her father narrowed his eyes and pointed at Lilian.
“Let this be a warning to you! Good girls keep their legs shut until the wedding night.”
Lillian ran upstairs with Theresa, shocked that this was happening. Theresa, however, had prepared for this and had a bag packed. What she hadn’t prepared for was Albert not showing. The plan was to move in with him. He was ten years older than Theresa; a navy man.
“It’s cold and dark out there! You can’t just leave!” Lillian cried. Theresa wiped her tears and pulled herself together for her sister’s sake.
“I’ll be fine. I’ll get settled and then I’ll let you know where I am. Okay?”
Lillian nodded.
“Now, can you do a favour for me?” Theresa asked.
“What?”
“Go get my winter jacket and stuff. Gonna need my mittens and hat. Just be quiet about it. I don’t want to face those two again.”
Lillian sniffled and hiccoughed.
“Ok.”
Once she was dressed for the weather, she had Lillian follow her to the back staircase that lead to a closed off corridor, sealed during the winter to conserve heat. Theresa hoped to avoid her parents.
Lillian shivered.
“Okay,” Theresa said stoically. It took a minute to pry open the door where it had frozen around the frame. Finally, it gave way and a cold blast of wintery air and puffs of snow blew into the porch.
“I’ll call you as soon as I can.”
Theresa had never felt lonelier or more afraid. The cold air stung her throat and made her cough. She forced herself to stop crying because the salty tears made her cheeks raw. Her feet burned from the frigid cold.
Theresa’s family lived on a residential street, not far from the town centre. Although there was very little street light she knew that in five or ten minutes she’d be in a brighter, more populated part of town. Less scary.
In order to get to Virginia’s house, Theresa would have to walk straight down Main Street, past the Irish Tavern and the one place she dreaded – Tabitha Place, a home for unwed mothers. She had talked to Al about it, knowing she’d be kicked out of her home, but Al had promised to look after her.
Theresa hunched into the wind and picked up her pace. A truck sped past and laid on the horn. Theresa looked up and noticed how much busier the streets were than normal. She was relieved to finally spot Virginia’s house.
A light glowed from their living room. Theresa knew if she knocked, she’d have to explain her sudden appearance to Virginia’s parents. Instead, she pried a few small rocks from the frozen driveway and threw one at Virginia’s bedroom window. Theresa saw the curtains move and a minute later, Virginia opened the back door .
”Theresa?” she said. “Oh my lord you told them!” No further explanation was needed. Virginia put her finger to her lips and without removing jacket or boots, Theresa followed her upstairs.
“You’re freezing!” Virginia whispered. She pulled a quilt from the bed and wrapped it around her friend. “I thought Albert was going to take you to his place?”
“He. Didn’t. Show. Up,” Theresa cried. Now that she was safe, the reality of Albert not showing, of her parents kicking her out, of her pregnancy, amplified.
“That prick!” Virginia whispered vehemently.
Theresa wiped her tears and stretched her tired legs the full length of the bed. Suddenly, a loud CRACK filled the air. Theresa held her breath, worried Virginia’s parents would come in.
“What was that?” asked Virginia.
It happened again.
“Virginia?” her mother called from downstairs. “Is everything okay?”
A third CRACK had everyone’s attention. Theresa pulled the curtain back and watched the streets fill with a mob of angry men.
“Look over there!” Theresa said. Virginia peered into the night where the sky went from black to deep orange.
“Fire!”
A group of men had marched to the front door, banging and hollering. The girls could hear Virginia’s father talking to them.
“They’re rioting at the camp!” her father shouted. He grabbed his coat and boots.
“Where you going?” Virginia’s mother demanded. Theresa pulled her knees to her chin and listened from the bed.
“I gotta go! Stay here and lock the door behind me.”
Theresa leaned over and pushed open the window, using a stick kept on the windowsill as a prop. Cold air filled the room carrying the sounds of sirens and screams, obscenities and threats against the “scabs” working the mill.
Suddenly, Albert’s absence made sense to Theresa. Albert’s best friend, Mark, worked for the logging company and had been on strike for months, barely able to put food on the table. He, along with the other employees, were fighting against the deplorable conditions they endured at the logging camps.
Virginia joined Theresa at the window just as her bedroom door opened. Her mother came in, about to say something but stopped short when she saw Theresa.
“She’s just here for the night,” Virginia said quickly. Her mother looked at Theresa and then to the opened window.
“It’s dangerous out there tonight,” she said.
“What’s going on?”Virginia asked.
“It’s that damned union. I knew the minute they got involved with the logging camp there’d be trouble.”. It didn’t answer the question for Virginia, but Theresa had a good idea what it was all about. She watched the chaos happening outside and thought of Albert. His best friend worked at the mill and shared one of the camps with twelve other men. They suffered through the cold.nights on beds not fit for a dog. When the mill workers went on strike, Al had promised to help keep the “scabs” from doing the work.
Suddenly a shot fired. Virginia’s mother gasped and clutched her throat.
“Someone’s been shot.”

 

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Add This To Your Writing Portfolio!

Professional Mentorship.  I stayed up late last night carefully making sure I followed the guidelines for the Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program which I heard about through the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia.  Why did I do that? Because I need help!

Committing to a mentorship program takes…er….commitment! The program begins in January and runs until June, at which point there is a READING.  Seriously, how exciting is that?  Okay, if you’re not a writer it’s probably not tickling your giblets but if you’re not a writer, go watch Dr. Phil or something!

I told myself that if I’m not one of the writers chosen to participate in the mentorship program, it doesn’t mean my writing sucks.  But, of course, we all know that’s exactly what it would mean.  A mentor doesn’t want to guide the unguidable! Well, at least I tried.  I love writing whether a mentor picks me from the rubble or not.  There’s nothing quite like stringing along a good sentence, if you know what I mean.  Non-writers who are rolling their eyes right now….I believe I told you to scram.  Pretty sure Judge Judy is on…

Anyway, fingers-crossed.  While I’m waiting to find out (could be months), you’ll find me squinting through my cheap reading glasses, hunched over the keyboard staring at a blank screen.  People in the “biz” call it writing, I guess.winter bird

Sister Agatha thought it would be best if Theresa went for a walk before the couple came to adopt her baby, the baby she’d nursed and loved for six months.

“I want to see them,” Theresa insisted vehemently. She’d fled Newfoundland for Montreal after the baby’s father hit her during an argument. It was a mistake. Nobody would rent to a young, unmarried mother, let alone give her a job.
“Go. When you get back, things will be different. Maybe your parents will take you back,” Sister Agatha said coolly.
“NO! I’m not letting him go!” Theresa shouted as she lifted little Donnie from Crib #8. She held him tightly to her chest as Sister Agatha tried to pull him away. Theresa’s breasts were full, swollen with milk, painful to have the baby pressed against her. Donnie was hungry. He cried, little fists balled tightly.
“You’re filthy,” Sister Agatha hissed. “You got no choice.”
The words weakened Theresa’s resolve, because she knew it was true. There was no place in the world for an unwed, 16-year-old mother, She loosened her grip just enough for Sister Agatha to take him.
You’ve just read a sample of the book I’m writing.  My goal is to have the novel “Me Dear Love” finished to the best of my ability by September 2017.  Lots of work to do……

Can Someone Tell Me What This Book is About? How to Write a Good Tagline.

Photo by: "My Life Through a Lens" Unsplash.com

Photo by: “My Life Through a Lens” Unsplash.com

As I write my novel, tidbits of writing advice trickles into my thoughts:

Tighten up the writing and get to the story.

Show; don’t tell.

Keep the story moving forward.

Write, rewrite;

Write, and rewrite again.

Be able to sell  your novel in one sentence.  Ouch, there she is, that taunting bitch of a rule that we all know could mean the difference between an agent or publisher giving our manuscripts a chance, or using it to wipe dog turds off their shoes.

Awesome. So I write and rewrite and do my damndest to keep the story plowing forward.  And then my brain pops the question, Would you do me the honour of telling me exactly what this book is about?  Of course I can do that, I think. It’s about a protagonist…well, two of them….and a couple of antagonists to make things interesting. But shit Lisa…what’s the story about?

For me, this is the hardest part of the process. It’s what wakes me up at night. It’s what makes me grind me teeth together and hold my breath while trying to come up with that perfect selling sentence.

I’ve come up with a plan that I hope will get me to the tagline and I want to share the ideas with other writers – like you! And hey, why not make this a collaborative project.  Share your ideas about how you find the perfect, succint sentence to sell your novel.

THE 4 point plan to tagline success:

  1. Finish the damn book. Just write it as best you can. It can and will be rewritten later.  Without a completed book there is no tagline.
  2.  Highlight those fragments of thought that you’ll read later and think, “Damn…did I write that?”  Those are keepers and they just might hold the clue to the storyline.
  3. Compress that novel into a short story. I’ve started writing a short story alongside the novel (with a self-imposed limit of 1800 words). Nothing flushes the nonsense down the toilet like a word limit. As that happens, the true story begins to emerge.
  4. Take notes. Go somewhere outside of your usual writing zone. I’m sitting at my dining room table right now so I would probably take my iPad and sit on the couch.  Then I feel like I’m just playing with words, not working at the table. I write down all of the horrible things that might happen to my characters and then all of the amazing things that could happen. Make some of the ideas off-the-charts implausible. It will help you better see and define what’s really happening in the book.

That’s it.  That my big 4 Point Plan. I’d love to hear from other writers with ideas on how to pull that final metaphorical string, the one that pries the best words from the pages and lays them out in one perfect sentence that – to an agent or publisher – screams PUBLISH  ME…PUBLISH ME..

Comments? See below.

Follow ME!  We can share ideas.

 

NEW SAMPLE- part of a chapter (draft only)

The cold air stung her throat and made her cough. Her feet burned from the frigid temperatures. Before telling her parents that she was expecting, she’d stolen cash from her father’s wallet as a bit of insurance towards her safety. Anger propelled her forward and again she cursed Albert McLarin. Telltale landmarks told Theresa where she was and how much longer it would take to get to town. On fairer days, Theresa and her friends walked the distance many times. With a brisk walk, it took twenty minutes. Walking against the wind and over slippery patches slowed her down considerably. By her estimates, she’d be at Virginia’s house in about ten minutes and she decided, as the wind picked up and the temperature plummeted, she’d stop there.

The closer she got to Virginia’s, the busier the streets became. Car horns blared and men shouted at each other. There was an unusual energy in the air for a frigid Sunday night in Badger.

Men had congregated on the steps of Jimmy’s grocery store but Theresa couldn’t see who was there. Was one of them Albert? she wondered.
Without a watch, Theresa couldn’t be sure of the time but estimated it close to 10 p.m. She picked up the pace, anxious to get out of the cold and out of the street. Four men stood smoking cigarettes under a lamp post. One turned as Theresa passed and tipped his hat. Not Albert.
Finally, she reached Virginia’s house. A small light glowed from the living room and she thought she detected movement from Virginia’s bedroom window. She went around to the back door where a wreath still hung from Christmas. As she raised her gloved hand to knock, she remembered her mother talking on the phone to someone, telling them all about her immoral daughter. What if she’d spoken to Victoria’s mother? Rather than risk being turned away at the door, Theresa took off a glove and pried some small rocks from the frozen driveway. The first throw hit the side of the house. Her second throw barely grazed Virginia’s window but it was enough to catch her attention. Virginia glanced momentarily out the window but didn’t see Theresa. Theresa tried again. This time Virginia looked more closely. Theresa waved her hands over her head. A minute later, Virginia opened the back door and peered outside.
“Theresa?” she asked. “Oh my lord you told them.” No further explanation was needed. Virginia put her finger to her lips and without removing jacket or boots, Theresa followed her upstairs.
“You’re freezing!” Virginia said quietly. Whether her parents knew Theresa’s situation or not, it would be difficult to explain what she was doing at their doorstep uninvited at this late hour. Virginia stuffed Theresa’s things in her closet and gave her a blanket to wrap herself in.
“Are your parents up?” Theresa whispered.
“They just went to bed. You can stay here tonight but what happened to Albert? I thought he was going…”
Theresa covered her mouth and cried.
“He. Didn’t. Show. Up,” she gulped.
“That prick!” Virginia whispered, grateful for the wind which shook and settled the old house, creating enough noise to drown out their voices.
“I’m going to make us some hot tea. I’ll grab some cookies or something too, okay?”
Theresa nodded and wiped her tears.
“Don’t worry,” Virginia said. “Once they go to bed that’s it for the night. I’ll be right back.”
Theresa stretched her tired legs the full length of the bed and sat with her back against the wooden headboard. Suddenly, a loud CRACK filled the air. Theresa held her breath, certain that Virginia’s parents were up.
Virginia rushed into the room without the promised tea. “What was that?” she asked.  It happened again, this time waking her parents.
“Virginia?” her mother called out. “Is everything okay?”
………

Writing in all the Right Places

I have a confession.  I’ve been writing for years but only started promoting my writing recently.  I was afraid I’d be laughed at, not taken seriously, or that my current social media followers would block me because hey, who wants to hear a writer talk about writing?

The thing is, if you’re serious about writing you have to promote.  It’s scary at first because your writing is a part of you, a big vulnerable string of words that says a lot about who you are. I started promoting my writing to get an audience, even if it’s a small one.  When my book is finally ready, I’ll be able to let agents know that I’m developing this platform of potential book buyers (my book hopefully!).

I came across an interesting site recently called Scriggler where writers can post, read and comment.  Sounds like a lot of other similar blog spots but there’s a unique playfulness to this site that’s refreshing.  I haven’t signed up to follow any of the groups yet, but there are a few interesting ones like The Skillful Quill and The Psychological Crime Club thatus.  Maybe I’ll even start my own group.

The important thing is develop a platform for your writing. Agents and publishers want to see that you have a following.  It takes time so don’t worry about starting slow.  Just start!   Get your writing linked to as many social media sites as possible and take the time to follow other people.

Tip:  Scriggler‘s mandate is to help promote a variety of writing forms so while you’re blogging and posting, you’ll also get some free promotion.  Also have a look at wordpress and create your own free website.  I used YouTube videos for tons of help with that.  Once you’ve got a site, post your writing and add links back to it on the other social media sites.

Stay committed and have fun!

 

How to Make the Most of Insomnia

Good morning everyone! I’ve been up since 4:45 a.m. and I’m not even a farmer. Here’s the thing, I go to bed, sleep a while and then BOING I’m up. It’s usually because I have to use the bathroom but there’s never any sense going back to sleep at 5 am if my alarm is just going to go off an hour later.

As you all know by now, I’m writing a book.  Even though I’ve written a fair bit my whole life, I’ve never committed to writing anything this intense and volumnous. When I was younger, I had a child to raise and he took up most of my time. As he got older, I had other things going on in my life and still didn’t think I had the time to write. Years went by and I kept coming up with excuses not to write.

Now, here I am, smack in the middle of perimenopause with the dreaded symptom: insomnia. Insomnia! How could I possible come up with an excuse not to write now?  All these extra hours not sleeping are now spent writing. Pounding words out from the keyboard to the screen. I’m not saying the words are all strung together nicely or poetically, but there they are. The first step to writing is just getting the words out.  Editing will come later.

So, I used to be afraid of insomnia (don’t know why – any therapist feel free to chime in).  Now I’m embracing it (sort of).  There are times when I’m so bone tired and brain dead the best I can write is something like (and..blah blah blah so there he was blah blah blah never then….you get the point).

As some of you may know, I’ve been taking prescription sleeping pills for about 18 years and they are WONDERFUL. I take 1/2, go to sleep soundly, and wake up refreshed. The problem now is that they don’t keep me asleep. If you happen to drive by my house early in the morning you’ll probably see a dim light and a lone figure slumped over a desk typing away. Uh, first of all…why the hell are you driving by my house at 4 in the morning?…..secondly, don’t knock on my door because I’m writing.

Welp, time to get ready for work! Have a great day everyone!

How “Really Bad” is this Drought Anyway?

We go through  dry summers every year and every year people complain that this time it’s really bad.  But the thing is, that’s what they said last year and the year before that.  Tell someone the rain is giving forecast and you’ll hear Well we need the rain.  Okay, I get it.  It’s easy for me to not think about it because I’m on a drilled well. Water isn’t an issue at my house – and no you can’t come here to have a shower!

When I was a kid, things were different. Every summer was about two things for me:  fresh strawberries from my father’s garden and “watching the well”. Every drop of water was rationed until finally, that inevitable summer day would come when even the number of times the toilet could be flushed was monitored. I think you know the rule….”If it’s yellow let it mellow”.  SUPER GROSS. My father had built his own garage complete with a little “outhouse” on the back. It had a little window overlooking the vegetable garden with a pink frilled curtain cira 1955. There was a calendar nailed to the wall which I always found weird.  No reading material.  Just a calendar. I hated that place.  It’s so unnatural to hear your own bodily functions hitting a pile of sawdust and cedar chips. And then you just walk away and leave it there. At least my aspirations were attainable.  Had an adult asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would have said, “I want to BE in a house where it’s okay to flush the toilet.”

And here we are again, complaining about the drought. Except this time it DOES seem different. How can I ignore the crater on someone’s lawn that used to be a pond?  Or what about Lake Milo? I can’t remember ever seeing it that low.  No need to fish, just walk out onto the dry bed and pick the fish up off the ground. Pretty sure they’re just lying there, one eye sunny-side up, gills desperately sucking in what water is left.

Mike washed both cars with the garden hose yesterday.  Out in the open.  Cars slowed down as they passed the house. I’m pretty sure someone gave him the finger. I don’t know;  maybe it is really bad this year.  All I know for sure is that it’s not apocalyptic until someone makes me poop behind a bush.

So far; so good.

How to Train Yourself to Eat Healthier 

1. Don’t buy into “miracle drinks” or anything else marketed as life changing.  It’s bullshit.

2. Stop lying to yourself. Be real about what you eat, when you eat it, and WHY you eat.

3. Eat more good fat.  Huh?  This absolutely works.  My snacks used to be mostly carbs like crackers (high in sugar), muffins etc.  Shortly after the snack, I was hungry again.  Now, I’ll have a small handful of cashews and a piece of cheese for a snack. I might add an apple to the mix.  That will keep me satisfied for hours. Good fats in moderation would include nuts, cheese, avocados, full fat yogurt, etc.

4. Serving size. Eat until your satisfied, not uncomfortable. Feeling awful after you eat is stupid eating.

5. Eat a small dessert but don’t sneak bites everytime you walk past that cake because I am telling you right now you will eat WAY more calories that way.  Grab a bowl, get some tea or coffee and enjoy a small portion.  Not too small.   Not too big. Yum.  No seconds!

6.  Fast food is non-food.  Think of all the money you’ll save by not eating fast food.  No more McDonald, Burger King, or Wednesdays.  Even if the calories seem reasonable, the salt intake is going to make you retain a ton of water.  Plus, your body doesn’t know how to properly metabolize that stuff.  It’s poison.  Seriously I never eat at fast food restaurants as long as I can help it.

7. Restaurants are fine, but only half the time.  Stop eating at restaurants so much!  The food tastes good because it’s loaded with fat, salt, sugar, and chicken teeth or something.

8. Drizzle some olive oil over chopped broccoli, asparagus, sweet peppers  mushrooms, whatever.  Spread it out on a baking sheet and put in a 420 oven for about 30 minutes.  A little salt and pepper to taste.  Yum yum. Really.  I do this every night. (See the photo I posted.   That was my supper tonight)

9.  Exercise. In order to actually burn FAT off your body, you need to be working HARD enough that you are breathing harder and you feel a sweat.  A leisurely walk is bullshit.  Walk with a hard focused pace, jog and walk, swim, whatever.  Yoga is also excellent for toning but to drop some serious butter your heartrate needs to climb.

10. Just how much shit are you drinking? Orange juice, smoothies, pop….all translate into sugar and added calories.  Even unsweetened fruit juice naturally has sugar.  Better to eat fresh fruit and leave the juice.

It might sound hard but the more you practice the better you get.  You will be amazed at how much your cravings will diminish and your taste for sugar will change.

Sugar is amazing in that the more you eat, the more numb you become to it. Then you need more and more.  Change your eating habits and you will be amazed.

MY ADVICE? Quit telling yourself bullshit lies, stop coming with lame-ass excuses, put the goddamned Cinabon down and have an apple.  Do it for YOU.   Eat a lot of healthy food and you’ll never need to count calories

Tonight’s Supper

 

SAMPLE CHAPTER from the book, “Me Dear” FIRST DRAFT only

BADGER, NEWFOUNDLAND, MARCH 10th, 1959

Sixteen-year-old Theresa Bennet stood at the foot of her bed filling two small suitcases with everything she thought she’d need. Her small hands shook with fear and she bit her lower lip until it bled, trying not to cry in front of her little sister. Lillian, however, cried openly.
“I’ll go with you!” she cried. “They can’t really do this can they?”
Moments earlier Theresa had stood in front of her parents, legs trembling, to tell them that she was pregnant. As she spoke the words, she fought the urge to cover her belly with the palm of her hand, as if doing so would illuminate the truth of her pregnancy to an intolerable degree.
Less than a year earlier, Theresa’s life had been so different. After a few failed years in school, Theresa’s mother had pulled her out, deciding it was more important to teach her how to run a home. She’d taught her how to cook a few basic meals like salt cod, potatoes, and onions shaped into patties and cooked in a frying pan. Although Theresa had never really mastered the art, her mother had shown her how to make bread. She was taught how to run a home quickly and efficiently. Since her mother had decided to let her quit school, it seemed the only thing she *would* be able to do was to become a wife to look after her husband and eventual children.
On Sundays they went to the early mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Theresa and Lillian hated the old musty church and the hard benches they had to kneel on. Lillian moved her lips during the prayers but didn’t make a sound. Her fingers traced the odd shapes and knots created by the pine wood. Theresa would crane her neck, trying to see around the pillar that jutted straight down from the ceiling, dividing the pew they normally sat in. All the men in church were required to sit to the right of the priest, and all the women and children to the left. Edith, Theresa’s mother, expected much more from the girls and spent the majority of the hour shushing them, pinching their arms, and threatening eternal damnation. The girls had heard it all before.
It was on one of those Sundays when she’d first spotted Albert.
They were about to get into the car when she saw him walking down the gravel road towards them. He was tall and thin and walked with so much confidence it made Theresa catch her breath. His hair was cut razored flat across the top of his head leaving just enough hair to form a pointed black widow’s peak over his forehead. Theresa fiddled with her mittens and pretended to have trouble with the door handle, stalling so she’d be able to get a better look at him.
“What’s the hold-up Theresa?” her father had said. They were all in the car waiting for Theresa to join them so they could get home. As he approached, he turned his head and flashed Theresa a big smile. She met his glance briefly, but it was enough.
Weeks later, she saw him again, this time sitting on the cement steps of Jimmy’s, the local grocery store named for its owner.
Like the first time she’d seen him, her breath caught in her throat. She slowed, but the minute he saw her she picked up her pace and hoped she didn’t appear as flustered as she felt. She was close enough to smell the crisp, sweet sawdust that clung to his pants. Unsure whether to say anything, or whether he actually remembered her, Theresa set her sights on the entrance.
“I’ve seen you before,” he said. She hadn’t even touched the second step.
“At the church,” Theresa replied, too quickly she thought. When he smiled, his eyes lit up. She felt giddy and weak at the same time. The weather was cold but his body was relaxed and loose as if it were a sweltering day. The sleeves of his jacket rode up his arm enough to reveal a heart-and-anchor tattoo on his forearm. His gaze was as intense as his body was relaxed. Theresa had heard of love at first site and wondered if this was what it felt like.
“Albert McLarin,” he said, extending his right hand.
“Theresa Bennet,” she replied, holding out her heavily mittened hand. She wished, at that moment, that she’d had the forethought to take them off. They had pilled over the years and were a little stretched and distorted from years of use. And yet even through the thickness of those ragged old mittens, the electricity Theresa felt was unmistakable.
“Well, I have to go,” she said reluctantly. Her mother was waiting for milk, eggs, and molasses and the last thing Theresa wanted was for her mother to call a search party for her.
“I’ll be here,” Albert said in a tone that could have implied he’d wait a lifetime for her to reappear. Once inside, Theresa lightly shook her head at her own foolishness. She wasn’t the type to succumb to romantic fantasies but here she was, imagining things about a man she didn’t know. The grocery store wasn’t busy and she had gathered the items she needed within minutes, but she took her time, wondering if he really would be waiting on the step when she left. Jimmy, owner and manager of the store, had opened the shop twenty years earlier after he’d shattered a leg working in the Labrador mines. Unable to resume mining again, he’d opened the store to fill a need in the town. Prior to Jimmy’s, people from Badger had to drive into Grand Falls for all of their groceries. The store was an instant success. People liked him for a variety of reasons. He knew his regulars by name and always gave samples of penny candy to the children.
“Careful of that fellow out there!” Jimmy said. Theresa pretended she didn’t know what he was talking about but felt cornered. As if she’d done something wrong.
“My nephew, Al. He’s a lady’s man.”
Theresa dropped a package of butter on the floor.
“That so?” Theresa asked nonchalantly. It occurred to her that Jimmy knew so much about his customers yet nobody asked much about him. She didn’t know where he lived, whether he was married, or whether he had children. So to hear him suddenly talk about a nephew was a surprise.
“Oh yes,” said Jimmy. “He breaks hearts. Just look at him!”
Theresa glanced outside where a couple of girls stood giggling, obviously flirting with him. Quickly, Theresa dropped her head and fished around her coat pocket for the change her mother had given her.
“Thank you me lady,” he said with a wink. Suddenly, Theresa was annoyed with his coy insinuations. He couldn’t possibly know what she was feeling or thinking, she thought. And even if he did, it was none of his business!
She took the groceries without meeting his eye and stepped outside, relieved, in a way, that the girls were still there. She could slip past them, she thought, without another word. Before she could touch the second step his arm shot out and his hand caught her above the knee, just over the top of her boot. She froze.
“I want to see you again,” he said with a seriousness and urgency that melted the minor annoyance she’d felt just moments earlier. The fact that he’d said it in front of these girls filled her with a sense of triumph.
“You will,” she replied, making a point to hold his gaze just long enough to make the girls wonder.
His grasp on her leg softened but he didn’t let go. Not yet.
“Good,” was all he said. And it was enough.
“Theresa? That you me love?” Startled, Theresa pulled away. It was her Aunt Ginny, her mother’s sister. Aunt Ginnie, or “Gin” as she was known, had never been married. People talked about her and spread rumours that she was “queer”, but Theresa didn’t care about any of that. What she cared about was the fact that her aunt was nosy, overly-religious, and would surely tell her mother about this, exaggerating the encounter to a ridiculous degree.
She smiled at Theresa while casting suspicious glances at Albert.
“Your mam’s waitin’ for you,” she whispered accusingly while leaning in to give Theresa a kiss on the cheek.
“Where d’you live?”Albert asked. Thankfully, Aunt Ginnie had gone inside.
“Oh me father won’t let me out the door if you come around,” Theresa said. She was allowed to date guys she’d gone to school with, whose families they knew from church. But this man was different. He was obviously older and seemed a lot more “knowing” than any guy she knew.
“Who says yer father has to know?”
Theresa flushed.
“Meet me here next Saturday. I’ll be around.”
She didn’t say yes or no, but the following weekend, after making up a story about staying at her friend’s house for the weekend, Theresa snuck off to meet Albert. It was one lie of many she would tell just to spend time with him. The truth, she knew, would eventually come out. She just had no idea it would be like this; pregnant. They hadn’t even met Albert, hadn’t had an opportunity to form a reasonable opinion about him. As far as they were concerned, he was just some pervert she’d met on the street which – she supposed – was her fault for hiding the relationship.
She’d barely touched her food that night. Hot baked beans with molasses and homemade brown bread was her favourite meal but she’d pushed it around her plate, nearly sick with nervousness. Six o’clock came. Then seven. At a quarter past eight, she knew he wasn’t going to show and that she’d have to do it herself. She’d debated waiting, but at 12 weeks along, knew it was time. If anything, she simply had to get it over with.
“You’ve committed a mortal sin!” her mother had exclaimed, slack-jawed. She’d clamped one hand over her mouth, the other on her stomach. For a minute, Theresa thought her mother would faint. Her father had stood, forcefully pushing himself from the table. He took several steps back as if to distance himself from his oldest daughter. Lillian had cried and went to Theresa, cupping her hand at the small of her sister’s back.
“NO!” her father had hollered. “You’ll never find a good husband *now *and I am sure as hell not looking after you. You’ve ruined yourself!” He was red-faced, jabbing his pointed finger in the air.
“Cam down! Cam down m’am. Don’t be saying stuff yer gonna regret!” Lillian had pleaded. “It’s not the stone age now, you know it’s not the end of the world.” But her cries went unheard. To her parents, it was the end of the world, certainly the end of their relationship with Theresa.
His eyes, heavy with disappointment and sadness caught Theresa’s gaze for just a minute. And then he looked way. “Get out of my house,” he said evenly as he headed to the living room. “I need a drink Edith.”
Now that the truth was out, Theresa was left scrambling to collect the things she most wanted to take with her. Theresa moved to the dresser she shared with Lillian and opened her jewelry box, removing the tiny cameo necklace her mother had given her for her birthday and fastened it around Lillian’s neck.
“That’s for you me love,” Theresa said. She couldn’t imagine never seeing her sister again and refused to fall into that line of thinking. Their parents would do what they could to keep them apart, but in just four years Lillian would be 18 years old. An adult. She’d be able to make her own choices without influence from her family. Theresa still had two years to go before she turned 18 and was already making her own choices. There was no turning back; Theresa’s only option was to move ahead.
“Where’s Albert?” Lillian asked quietly, unsure whether to bring it up or not.
“He was supposed to help me tell mom and dad and then take me to his place. Where’s he at now I wonder. Bet he’s over at the tavern with a big fucking drink and not a gee dee care in the world!”
Lillian sat next to her on the edge of the bed and held her hand. They sat that way for several minutes, both crying softly, helplessly. Theresa’s free hand traced circles over the quilt they sat on. Her grandmother had hand-stitched every panel, every pink and purple daisy, for her thirteenth birthday.
“Where you gonna go?” Lillian asked again.
“Tabitha place I imagine.”
Lillian was mortified, “Tabitha Place? You can’t go there! The people who goes in never come out!”
Theresa closed her eyes to try and stop the flow of tears but couldn’t. She stood, pulling Lillian up with her.
“I got to go before m’am comes in here. I don’t want to see her.” She embraced Lillian tightly.
“They’ll let you back. They’ll want to see their grandchild,” Lillian whispered into her black hair. “Stay at Aunt Gin’s house until morning at least. Once m’am calms down she will change her mind. I knows she will.”
Theresa nearly laughed at the thought of finding shelter with her Aunt Ginnie. She was way too “important” in badger to take on a niece “in the family way”. She’d never let a “sinner” like Theresa into the house. Nobody would. Nobody but the nuns at Tabitha Place.
“Are you scared?” Lillian asked through her tears. Theresa glanced out into the darkness. She was terrified. The only thing she knew about having a baby was from stories overheard from her mother’s friends. Gnarled bits of information crowded her thoughts.
*By the third day I was sure I was gonna die!
*I ripped and tore like a paper bag!
*The doctor didn’t know he was breach. I nearly bled to death!*
The last thing she wanted to do was walk out into the darkness. It was March and still as cold as any winter day.
“Would you go to the porch and get my coat and hat. And my mittens and boots?” she asked Lillian. She did not want to face her parents again. Instead, she’d slip quietly out the front door. There was a side door that led to the front door entrance. It was down a long, cold hallway that they kept closed in the winter to avoid heating unnecessary space.
Lillian followed Theresa down the frigid corridor, holding her arms tightly across her chest to keep warm. The glass doorknob rattled in Theresa’s gloved hand and she had to give the door a good tug to free it from the ice that had built up around the sides. She hugged her sister one more time before stepping outside. Her winter boots sunk into snow that had drifted over the steps. She wanted someone to come after her, to stop her from walking away, but knew that wouldn’t happen. She wouldn’t look back even though she knew Lillian watched her from her bedroom window. The only light came from a few scattered streetlights and it was so cold she knew that tears would freeze on her face. Instead, she focused on her anger. Albert hadn’t shown up when she needed him the most. She’d told him that she would be thrown out of the house, but maybe he hadn’t believed her. “I’ll chop of your balls!” she screamed into the darkness.

*Badger, Newfoundland, Sunday, March 10, 1959**
Sixteen-year-old Theresa Bennet stood at the foot of her bed filling two small suitcases with everything she thought she’d need. Her small hands shook with fear and she bit her lower lip until it bled, trying not to cry in front of her little sister. Lillian, however, cried openly.
“I’ll go with you!” she cried. “They can’t really do this can they?”
Moments earlier Theresa had stood in front of her parents, legs trembling, to tell them that she was pregnant. As she spoke the words, she fought the urge to cover her belly with the palm of her hand, as if doing so would illuminate the truth of her pregnancy to an intolerable degree.
Less than a year earlier, Theresa’s life had been so different. After a few failed years in school, Theresa’s mother had pulled her out, deciding it was more important to teach her how to run a home. She’d taught her how to cook a few basic meals like salt cod, potatoes, and onions shaped into patties and cooked in a frying pan. Although Theresa had never really mastered the art, her mother had shown her how to make bread. She was taught how to run a home quickly and efficiently. Since her mother had decided to let her quit school, it seemed the only thing she *would* be able to do was to become a wife to look after her husband and eventual children.
On Sundays they went to the early mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Theresa and Lillian hated the old musty church and the hard benches they had to kneel on. Lillian moved her lips during the prayers but didn’t make a sound. Her fingers traced the odd shapes and knots created by the pine wood. Theresa would crane her neck, trying to see around the pillar that jutted straight down from the ceiling, dividing the pew they normally sat in. All the men in church were required to sit to the right of the priest, and all the women and children to the left. Edith, Theresa’s mother, expected much more from the girls and spent the majority of the hour shushing them, pinching their arms, and threatening eternal damnation. The girls had heard it all before.
It was on one of those Sundays when she’d first spotted Albert.
They were about to get into the car when she saw him walking down the gravel road towards them. He was tall and thin and walked with so much confidence it made Theresa catch her breath. His hair was cut razored flat across the top of his head leaving just enough hair to form a pointed black widow’s peak over his forehead. Theresa fiddled with her mittens and pretended to have trouble with the door handle, stalling so she’d be able to get a better look at him.
“What’s the hold-up Theresa?” her father had said. They were all in the car waiting for Theresa to join them so they could get home. As he approached, he turned his head and flashed Theresa a big smile. She met his glance briefly, but it was enough.
Weeks later, she saw him again, this time sitting on the cement steps of Jimmy’s, the local grocery store named for its owner.
Like the first time she’d seen him, her breath caught in her throat. She slowed, but the minute he saw her she picked up her pace and hoped she didn’t appear as flustered as she felt. She was close enough to smell the crisp, sweet sawdust that clung to his pants. Unsure whether to say anything, or whether he actually remembered her, Theresa set her sights on the entrance.
“I’ve seen you before,” he said. She hadn’t even touched the second step.
“At the church,” Theresa replied, too quickly she thought. When he smiled, his eyes lit up. She felt giddy and weak at the same time. The weather was cold but his body was relaxed and loose as if it were a sweltering day. The sleeves of his jacket rode up his arm enough to reveal a heart-and-anchor tattoo on his forearm. His gaze was as intense as his body was relaxed. Theresa had heard of love at first site and wondered if this was what it felt like.
“Albert McLarin,” he said, extending his right hand.
“Theresa Bennet,” she replied, holding out her heavily mittened hand. She wished, at that moment, that she’d had the forethought to take them off. They had pilled over the years and were a little stretched and distorted from years of use. And yet even through the thickness of those ragged old mittens, the electricity Theresa felt was unmistakable.
“Well, I have to go,” she said reluctantly. Her mother was waiting for milk, eggs, and molasses and the last thing Theresa wanted was for her mother to call a search party for her.
“I’ll be here,” Albert said in a tone that could have implied he’d wait a lifetime for her to reappear. Once inside, Theresa lightly shook her head at her own foolishness. She wasn’t the type to succumb to romantic fantasies but here she was, imagining things about a man she didn’t know. The grocery store wasn’t busy and she had gathered the items she needed within minutes, but she took her time, wondering if he really would be waiting on the step when she left. Jimmy, owner and manager of the store, had opened the shop twenty years earlier after he’d shattered a leg working in the Labrador mines. Unable to resume mining again, he’d opened the store to fill a need in the town. Prior to Jimmy’s, people from Badger had to drive into Grand Falls for all of their groceries. The store was an instant success. People liked him for a variety of reasons. He knew his regulars by name and always gave samples of penny candy to the children.
“Careful of that fellow out there!” Jimmy said. Theresa pretended she didn’t know what he was talking about but felt cornered. As if she’d done something wrong.
“My nephew, Al. He’s a lady’s man.”
Theresa dropped a package of butter on the floor.
“That so?” Theresa asked nonchalantly. It occurred to her that Jimmy knew so much about his customers yet nobody asked much about him. She didn’t know where he lived, whether he was married, or whether he had children. So to hear him suddenly talk about a nephew was a surprise.
“Oh yes,” said Jimmy. “He breaks hearts. Just look at him!”
Theresa glanced outside where a couple of girls stood giggling, obviously flirting with him. Quickly, Theresa dropped her head and fished around her coat pocket for the change her mother had given her.
“Thank you me lady,” he said with a wink. Suddenly, Theresa was annoyed with his coy insinuations. He couldn’t possibly know what she was feeling or thinking, she thought. And even if he did, it was none of his business!
She took the groceries without meeting his eye and stepped outside, relieved, in a way, that the girls were still there. She could slip past them, she thought, without another word. Before she could touch the second step his arm shot out and his hand caught her above the knee, just over the top of her boot. She froze.
“I want to see you again,” he said with a seriousness and urgency that melted the minor annoyance she’d felt just moments earlier. The fact that he’d said it in front of these girls filled her with a sense of triumph.
“You will,” she replied, making a point to hold his gaze just long enough to make the girls wonder.
His grasp on her leg softened but he didn’t let go. Not yet.
“Good,” was all he said. And it was enough.
“Theresa? That you me love?” Startled, Theresa pulled away. It was her Aunt Ginny, her mother’s sister. Aunt Ginnie, or “Gin” as she was known, had never been married. People talked about her and spread rumours that she was “queer”, but Theresa didn’t care about any of that. What she cared about was the fact that her aunt was nosy, overly-religious, and would surely tell her mother about this, exaggerating the encounter to a ridiculous degree.
She smiled at Theresa while casting suspicious glances at Albert.
“Your mam’s waitin’ for you,” she whispered accusingly while leaning in to give Theresa a kiss on the cheek.
“Where d’you live?”Albert asked. Thankfully, Aunt Ginnie had gone inside.
“Oh me father won’t let me out the door if you come around,” Theresa said. She was allowed to date guys she’d gone to school with, whose families they knew from church. But this man was different. He was obviously older and seemed a lot more “knowing” than any guy she knew.
“Who says yer father has to know?”
Theresa flushed.
“Meet me here next Saturday. I’ll be around.”
She didn’t say yes or no, but the following weekend, after making up a story about staying at her friend’s house for the weekend, Theresa snuck off to meet Albert. It was one lie of many she would tell just to spend time with him. The truth, she knew, would eventually come out. She just had no idea it would be like this; pregnant. They hadn’t even met Albert, hadn’t had an opportunity to form a reasonable opinion about him. As far as they were concerned, he was just some pervert she’d met on the street which – she supposed – was her fault for hiding the relationship.
She’d barely touched her food that night. Hot baked beans with molasses and homemade brown bread was her favourite meal but she’d pushed it around her plate, nearly sick with nervousness. Six o’clock came. Then seven. At a quarter past eight, she knew he wasn’t going to show and that she’d have to do it herself. She’d debated waiting, but at 12 weeks along, knew it was time. If anything, she simply had to get it over with.
“You’ve committed a mortal sin!” her mother had exclaimed, slack-jawed. She’d clamped one hand over her mouth, the other on her stomach. For a minute, Theresa thought her mother would faint. Her father had stood, forcefully pushing himself from the table. He took several steps back as if to distance himself from his oldest daughter. Lillian had cried and went to Theresa, cupping her hand at the small of her sister’s back.
“NO!” her father had hollered. “You’ll never find a good husband *now *and I am sure as hell not looking after you. You’ve ruined yourself!” He was red-faced, jabbing his pointed finger in the air.
“Cam down! Cam down m’am. Don’t be saying stuff yer gonna regret!” Lillian had pleaded. “It’s not the stone age now, you know it’s not the end of the world.” But her cries went unheard. To her parents, it was the end of the world, certainly the end of their relationship with Theresa.
His eyes, heavy with disappointment and sadness caught Theresa’s gaze for just a minute. And then he looked way. “Get out of my house,” he said evenly as he headed to the living room. “I need a drink Edith.”
Now that the truth was out, Theresa was left scrambling to collect the things she most wanted to take with her. Theresa moved to the dresser she shared with Lillian and opened her jewelry box, removing the tiny cameo necklace her mother had given her for her birthday and fastened it around Lillian’s neck.
“That’s for you me love,” Theresa said. She couldn’t imagine never seeing her sister again and refused to fall into that line of thinking. Their parents would do what they could to keep them apart, but in just four years Lillian would be 18 years old. An adult. She’d be able to make her own choices without influence from her family. Theresa still had two years to go before she turned 18 and was already making her own choices. There was no turning back; Theresa’s only option was to move ahead.
“Where’s Albert?” Lillian asked quietly, unsure whether to bring it up or not.
“He was supposed to help me tell mom and dad and then take me to his place. Where’s he at now I wonder. Bet he’s over at the tavern with a big fucking drink and not a gee dee care in the world!”
Lillian sat next to her on the edge of the bed and held her hand. They sat that way for several minutes, both crying softly, helplessly. Theresa’s free hand traced circles over the quilt they sat on. Her grandmother had hand-stitched every panel, every pink and purple daisy, for her thirteenth birthday.
“Where you gonna go?” Lillian asked again.
“Tabitha place I imagine.”
Lillian was mortified, “Tabitha Place? You can’t go there! The people who goes in never come out!”
Theresa closed her eyes to try and stop the flow of tears but couldn’t. She stood, pulling Lillian up with her.
“I got to go before m’am comes in here. I don’t want to see her.” She embraced Lillian tightly.
“They’ll let you back. They’ll want to see their grandchild,” Lillian whispered into her black hair. “Stay at Aunt Gin’s house until morning at least. Once m’am calms down she will change her mind. I knows she will.”
Theresa nearly laughed at the thought of finding shelter with her Aunt Ginnie. She was way too “important” in badger to take on a niece “in the family way”. She’d never let a “sinner” like Theresa into the house. Nobody would. Nobody but the nuns at Tabitha Place.
“Are you scared?” Lillian asked through her tears. Theresa glanced out into the darkness. She was terrified. The only thing she knew about having a baby was from stories overheard from her mother’s friends. Gnarled bits of information crowded her thoughts.
*By the third day I was sure I was gonna die!
*I ripped and tore like a paper bag!
*The doctor didn’t know he was breach. I nearly bled to death!*
The last thing she wanted to do was walk out into the darkness. It was March and still as cold as any winter day.
“Would you go to the porch and get my coat and hat. And my mittens and boots?” she asked Lillian. She did not want to face her parents again. Instead, she’d slip quietly out the front door. There was a side door that led to the front door entrance. It was down a long, cold hallway that they kept closed in the winter to avoid heating unnecessary space.
Lillian followed Theresa down the frigid corridor, holding her arms tightly across her chest to keep warm. The glass doorknob rattled in Theresa’s gloved hand and she had to give the door a good tug to free it from the ice that had built up around the sides. She hugged her sister one more time before stepping outside. Her winter boots sunk into snow that had drifted over the steps. She wanted someone to come after her, to stop her from walking away, but knew that wouldn’t happen. She wouldn’t look back even though she knew Lillian watched her from her bedroom window. The only light came from a few scattered streetlights and it was so cold she knew that tears would freeze on her face. Instead, she focused on her anger. Albert hadn’t shown up when she needed him the most. She’d told him that she would be thrown out of the house, but maybe he hadn’t believed her. “I’ll chop of your balls!” she screamed into the darkness.