This week I’ve been working on the major emotional climax of the my nano project. As much as I enjoyed the challenge of the big action scenes: protest marches, clashes with troops, mine explosions & collapses, and store burnings & lootings, it was the big emotional confrontation I was most looking forward to tackling.
That confrontation was simple enough to set up: female protagonist come across the guys, naked after swimming in the lake & displaying a moment of affection – not even a sex act but a caress. The confrontation is between her class, education, Catholic religion & grief and the guys lack of those – under-educated, dirt poor & Protestant. Neither side comes out unscathed but my sympathies are clearly with the guys.
My male protagonist loses some of his innocence as he sees his affection for his mate is more than buddy/buddy and that affection is returned. My female protagonist now antagonist – well I’m not sure what her lesson, if any, will be, because judgemental people only become firmer in their resolve when frustrated in their efforts to be proved right.
word count 47800 – expect to pass 50000 today 🙂
Lillian was outside the church as Birk and his mother came out from the funeral service. Three pine box coffins preceded them. Each followed by its own grieving family.
“I was so sorry to hear about Sal.” She came over to hug his mother.
“One gets used to these things.” His mother gently pushed Lillian away. “Sad to say. Sad to say. We get used to these things.”
Lillian fell into step with them as they walked to the cemetery. She saw that none of the families were particularly tearful, more grim and sullen than caught up in sorrow.
She didn’t go in to the cemetery though. She knew that being so connected to the priest she wouldn’t be welcome there at such a time.
When she’d heard that Sal had died she couldn’t believe it. She had been with the girls earlier in the week. Both of them seemed well enough and eager to keep learning. Perhaps if she had done more, brought them food, more vegetables from the garden. But even the O’Dowell’s were stretching out what goods they had.
Shortly the families left the cemetery and walked around Lillian. None of them acknowledging her presence. Birk and his mother stopped a few yards along and spoke quietly. He came to her as the rest went on their way.
“Ma, thanks you for all you did for the girls but thinks it best you don’t put yourself out anymore on our account.”
“I understand. How’s Maddy? She’s no ailing too?”
“No. She was too busted up to be with us. The Malone’s is minding her.”
“I am sorry that …”
“Sorry won’t bring Sal or any of the other children back.”
“I know that, but Birk, this is none of my doing.”
“I know.” He turned and started back into the cemetery. “I have to finish things now.”
“Finish?” Lillian asked.
“We bury our own. I dug the grave this morning ‘fore the service. Same with the other families. Digging in the earth again. Joe says he hoped we didn’t find coal or the company would stop us from burying our dead. They would too if they thought they could.”
“They couldn’t do that.” Lillian said.
“They owns all the coal here abouts regardless of whose land it’s on. If you find coal digging your garden that coal belongs to the company not to you. So, if you don’t mind me Miss, I have a sister to bury.”
She watched him go in the graveyard.
She was deeply puzzled as to why her attempts to befriend Birk had been rebuffed. At least he no longer expressed open animosity towards her. Religion couldn’t be the only reason. He surely didn’t see her real motivation in trying to play a part in his life?
She went back to the main street. The few open shops were empty of people and goods. Many had had been shut down and even boarded up.
“Miss Lillian.” It was Mrs. Seldon, who used the manage the company store. “Fancy seeing you again so soon.”
“Yes Hannah, I hope it isn’t going to be as dramatic today though.”
“Wasn’t that some terrible. It’s a wonder so few were hurt bad. How’s Father Patrick?”
“Recovering well. His head is as hard you’d expect.” Lillian forced herself to smile. Part of her was glad to see her uncle get what she felt was coming to him. Especially now that her hopes of embarrassing him by consorting with the Protestant miners hadn’t gone as quickly, or as easily, as she had hoped,
“I’m surprised you haven’t returned to your family in Boston by now Miss.”
“One day perhaps.” She couldn’t see herself back there now after what she had experienced even if they hadn’t had announced her death. “I’d best be on my way.”
Was what had happened to her so dreadful? She racked her memory for other girls she had known in her Boston social circle. Surely she wasn’t the first and only one who had gotten caught up in that sort of misadventure.
“Good evening Miss McTavish.” It was Steven O’Dowell. “You seemed to be in another world.”
“Not exactly Mr. O’Dowell.”
“I’ve told you many times to call me Steven.” He offered her his arm.
Since she had come to reside at the O’Dowell’s house his actions towards her had changed. He’d become much more circumspect, as if his sister were always present with them.
“Not too long ago you mentioned a Mr. James Dunham?” She hadn’t forgotten how Steven had caught her off guard with his knowledge of what had happened in in Boston. Or at least of knowledge he implied he had.
“I regret those remarks Miss McTavish. He proved to be most untrustworthy in his business dealings. Quite distasteful in fact.”
“By business dealing you mean …”
Lillian wanted to laugh at his discomfort. She recognized in Steven the same recklessness her older brother had when it came to quick money.
“I hope I haven’t shocked you. But I realize we got off on the wrong foot and I intend to be as honest as I can with you.”
“Thank you, Mr O’Dowell. But your vices are of no concern to me.”
“I gather from Clara that you have been instructing some of the Mudder brats.”
“Yes. They don’t have a the good sisters that our children are lucky to have. If we want to lead them out of their ways they need to be taught.”
“Lead them!” He gave a half-laugh. “You think of yourself as a missionary.”
“Quite right. If we can make socks for the children of Africa, who as far as we know have no religion at all, in hopes of leading them to salvation why shouldn’t we do it here, when there are children right under our noses who need those socks just as badly.” She a bit taken aback at the vehemence of her own words.
“Well said. Clara was right that there was more to you than good pies and tidy needlepoint.”
(rest of scene in next post)