Welcome to another special edition of Watch Out. Today I’ve got author Donna Steele visiting and talking about Homecoming. Her latest release from Rebel Ink Press.
My latest story, Homecoming is a departure for me. I write science fiction and paranormal romance. But this story – women’s fiction – demanded some time and I listened. First, this is definitely not autobiographical. I have the world’s best sister and I’m the one with tons of cousins that we saw every Sunday, while eating watermelon and playing in the woods.
But the story does have some basis in fact. We did have to clean out the family home eventually and it was overwhelming – not just because of the sheer volume of stuff, but also the questions we could no longer ask. There were strangers in a lot of those photos, and who knew why that little thing was kept. Did it have a meaning that we were never told? Was it handed down from an ancestor, or won at the county fair? No one knows.
My kids have forced a vow that I will not leave such a Herculean task to them, but then I didn’t grow up in the Depression where everything was recycled eventually and nothing was thrown away because it might be needed “someday.” I hope we became a good cautionary tale for our parents’ friends to go through their things and make notes or tell the story behind some object. Or even to go ahead and get rid of it now or pass it on while you can enjoy someone new owning it.
Once again I found myself writing a strong woman who had to be pushed into her strength. That’s a true heroine to me, someone who has to find out for herself that she can handle what’s thrown at her and emerge even stronger than she would have believed.
A short excerpt from Homecoming –
Matt washed up in the utility room and came into the kitchen as Ashley worked at the counter. “Eventually you’re going to have to clean out the round room too.”
He saw her jerk slightly. “Cupola.”
“The cupola room. That’s what I called it.”
“Is it haunted?”
“Well, you avoid it like the plague and I think it would be the nicest room in the house.”
“Yes, it would be.” She seemed unaware of the wistful note creeping into her voice.
“This is not something you want to talk about. Okay, my bad.”
“No, you’re right. It would be the best room. It’s room I always wanted.” The tone caught and held him.
“You can have it now.”
She shrugged. “Maybe too little too late?”
“No. You can do anything you want to this house. It’s yours. You need to remember that. If you want it bulldozed, we can make that happen.”
She glanced up startled. “We could, couldn’t we?”
“I promise. Can you tell me what the deal is with the room?”
“It’s a lot more than just a room.”
“I got that.”
She gave him a wan smile. “Ready for lunch?”
“Sure.” He slipped into his chair at the table and observed her moving quietly around the kitchen. She never accepted his help at lunch. Dinner they handled together. You’d think they really were living together. He hadn’t tried to kiss her again, though not from lack of desire. Maybe it was her move next.
She’d made a pasta salad with chicken and iced tea. Good, he needed something cool after painting in the sun all morning.
Ashley took her seat around the corner from him, at the far end from her working area and laptop. She picked up her fork, but spoke. “I always wanted the room.”
Surprised he listened as she returned to the subject. He wasn’t going to bring it back up.
“Mother had the cupola room. After she left I thought I might get it, but Mattie had other ideas. Nice people weren’t supposed to have bedrooms in the front of the house.”
“Your bedroom is in the front.”
“Of course it is.” She took a sip of the tea. “I really thought I would get it. At twelve I thought of it as the fairy princess room. I had it all decorated in my mind.” She sat silent for moment. “So Mattie moved the sewing machine in. The damn machine had been in the hall all my life, used as a catch all table, but she decided she needed a real sewing room. I have no clue if she could thread a needle, I never saw it happen. Other things began to make their way into the room, her things, to ensure I understood it would never be mine.
“I have no doubt it looks like an attic in there. Crammed full with anything that used to be out on display, but got damaged or replaced. Nothing ever got thrown away. I think up to that point I had held out a hope only the disgraced scarlet woman didn’t like me. Turns out it was both of them.”
Disgraced scarlet woman? He blinked. “Didn’t like . . .”
“Did your aunt never tell you my story?”