Image from FreeImages.com, https://www.freeimages.com/photo/laundry-oldtime-1217900
I’m working on A Good Community and have just finished Revision #3 (aka Draft 4). So I’d like to share a bit with you.
When I wrote The Enlistment, I thoroughly enjoyed creating the character of Rosa Hamilton. She is a young black woman who is Frankie’s age, and she is every bit as feisty, smart, and strong as Frankie. The two become friends in 1862 and then part ways when Rosa leaves as a laundress with the New Jersey Fifteenth Volunteers and Frankie returns home to Blaineton. (This laundress thing should explain the image of old-time undies on a line. I was desperate for an image, Rosa was a laundress, so…)
I like Rosa so much that it just felt right to bring her back in A Good Community, which takes place two years after she and Frankie part. Here’s Rosa's first appearance. It happens in Chapter 4. And I must say that her entrance is even more dramatic than Frankie’s first appearance in Saint Maggie (stomping into the kitchen and shouting, “I hate corsets and crinolines!”)
Edward Caldwell was taking a short break from his duties as telegrapher. He always liked to have a cup of tea with Andy the receptionist. This enabled the two young men to exchange stories about Eli’s foibles. They respected his knowledge and acumen as an editor, but the portly man also provided them with a consistent source of humor.
They currently were chuckling over how Eli was willing to babysit little Faith. It struck them as funny that as manly and rough-edged as Eli appeared, he could be tender and loving with the baby.
“Yeah,” Andy was saying, “but he made Danny bury a shitty diaper out back and I nearly split my sides watching him. The poor kid kept gagging as he dug the hole.”
Edward swallowed his tea in a big gulp. “You need to stop saying things like that when I’m drinking. This tea almost came out my nose.”
The front door bell jangled.
The two looked up to find a thin young woman standing in the entry. She was shorter than Frankie, who was fairly short. Her skin was brown, a shade lighter than Edward’s. She wore a tired straw hat and a faded dress. One hand clutched a carpet bag, the other was holding a piece of paper.
Edward, who had been slouching by the desk, immediately straightened up. “May I help you, Miss?”
“I…” she said.
He frowned slightly behind his wire-rim glasses. “Yes?”
Her eyes rolled back, and she fell to the floor.
Alarmed, Edward rushed to her side, plopped down beside her, and began patting her face. “Miss? Miss!”
He noticed the slip of paper in her hand and took it up. His eyes widened as he read it. “I think you’d better get Mr. Smith, Andy. And quick!”
Andy pounded out of the room.
Edward got to his feet and fetched the pitcher of water from the reception desk. Returning to the unconscious girl, he sat down beside her once more, pulled a handkerchief from his jacket pocket, dipped it into the pitcher, and began to bathe her overly-warm forehead.
“Edward?” It was Eli’s voice. “What the hell’s going on out here?”
“This young lady came in and swooned.”
Eli stood over the prone figure. “Funny. She doesn’t look like the swooning type.”
“Why do you say that?” Edward gave Eli an accusing glare. “Just because she’s colored, doesn’t mean – ”
Eli held up a hand. “Hold it. I didn’t mean it’s because she’s colored. I mean that any woman might take to fainting if they lived a pampered life. But this young lady hasn’t done that. Take a gander at her hands. They’re rough. That means she’s a worker. And I’ve noticed that workers have neither the time nor the luxury to swoon.”
As Eli looked more closely at the young stranger, a frown creased his forehead. “You know, she looks familiar. But I can’t place her.”
Edward held the paper up. “Perhaps this will jog your memory.”
Eli took the slip from his telegrapher and read the words written on it. His eyebrows arched. “Huh. Don’t that beat all.”
The young woman moaned.
Edward returned his attention to her. “It’s all right, miss. You swooned.”
She grimaced. “I never swoon…”
“Told you,” Eli said.
The young man ignored his boss in favor of the pretty girl, whose head he was cradling on his lap. “I’m sorry to say, miss, but you did faint.” He put the back of a hand to her cheek. “And you’re terribly warm. Are you ill?”
“No. It’s hot out.” She struggled to a sitting position and focused her eyes on Eli. “Hey… I think I know you.”
“Do you, young lady? Well, you definitely know my wife.” He held the slip of paper out. “This is her handwriting and her name.”
Why did Rosa suddenly leave the laundresses? What is she doing in Blaineton and why is she holding a piece of paper with Maggie’s name on it?
No spoilers. You’ll just have to wait until the novel is published.
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder