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.

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