Last September I was invited to a gathering at my neighbour’s where
I. enjoyed an evening
of food, drinks and conversation. The purpose of the evening was to meet her
friends, visiting from . California
As I was leaving, the guest of honour inquired if I was the writer. When I replied yes, she demanded, “Why don’t you write something about how widows are treated?”
I knew she was a widow, unaware at the time that she had lost her husband only six months before, which would account for the emotion that was evident with her asking.
I didn’t know what she expected me to write, but I was curious and did some research. After reading a series of articles full of self help advice and personal experiences, I was drawn to the plight of these women as they struggled to rebuild their lives.
A prolific note taker, I had pages after page of notes and put together an article that I think touched on some of the things she was experiencing. She read the article out loud, and at times was reduced to tears as the information hit close to home.
I always felt she had wanted something more from me, though I don’t know exactly what that might have been. I just felt I was not done with the topic.
As November approached, I needed a story line for NaNo. If you’re not aware November is National Novel Writing Month, more commonly called NaNoWriMo, where the challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I decided to make my story about a woman, recently widowed, and gave her a few conflicts, just to make it more interesting.
I made the deadline, with words to spare and spent months doing the edits.
I usually write in a very organized fashion. If I’m working on a book I have my book binder with story ideas, plots, and character profiles. Any research I do on locations or interiors go into the binder, along with photos torn from magazines for a visual reference.
When I write I’m constantly going back, rereading and, I dare say, editing, as I go along. My usual first draft is not as rough as some, but presents almost as more of a first edit.
Not so with my NaNo book. In order to keep the word count going, I didn’t have time to go back and edit as I went along. It was an interesting experience, and I’ll probably do it again, but next time I’ll be more prepared.
For one thing, I’ll make sure I’m ready for Christmas. After the stress of writing for the whole month of November it was a shock to get back to the real world and realize that Christmas was only weeks away. Like I said, I’ll be better prepared next time.
At any rate, I began the editing process, gave it to friends and a fellow writer to read, and took all their suggestions into consideration when I did what I hoped was to be the final edit.
Photo and cover design by John Kerns... www.john.kerns.ca
Here’s a bit of the beginning, like I said before, I gave my girl some conflicts to deal with.
Holly inserted the key and opened the door to the fourth floor condo. Hands shaking, the key seemed to stick in the unfamiliar lock, as if to defy her entrance. With a feeling of trepidation she entered and looked about with some caution, fully expecting that someone might appear and question her right to be there.
She had every right, and no right, and that was the problem.
Her eye was immediately drawn to the impressive view of the lake and sky framed by the glass paned French doors. As she glanced beyond the terrace, she could see the marina, the docks sitting empty, waiting for summer and another season of sailing to begin.
Turning back to the room she noted the done-by-a-decorator style of décor, where everything was carefully coordinated; the fabrics, the furnishings, even the art that hung on the walls. It was show room perfect but felt cold and impersonal.
Now it belonged to her, not that she wanted any part of it.
She didn’t belong in this stylish place. Holly looked down at the jeans and simple leather shoes she wore, and felt out of place. This place belonged to a lifestyle she knew nothing about. What did middle-aged housewives know about secret hideaways?
For the last few months her life had been nothing but one shocking and unexpected event after another, and her world had been turned upside down.
She’d known what it meant that night, when the two police officers had appeared at her door. “Mrs. Prentice, we regret to inform you…,” they began. The conversation was etched in her memory. On that stormy February night, when her husband of almost twenty-five years had been killed in a car accident, her comfortable life had come crashing down around her.
She had been numb at first, thankful for the tasks that kept her busy. Friends and family had hovered, and then everyone went back to their lives, as if she were healed, like she’d just had her gallbladder cut out, instead of her heart. Her friends were married, they still had their husbands, and their lives had not changed.
When the letter came, from a bank they had never dealt with, addressed to the Executor, she’d taken it to Bob Watson, her husband’s friend and law partner for an explanation.
“I contacted the bank, Holly,” he later told her. “It looks like Richard had an account there and in the safety deposit box I found ownership papers for a condominium on the waterfront.”
The news about the condo struck her hard, at a time when she was already feeling unsure and unsteady. Why did he have a secret place? What was he hiding?
Bob tried to talk her out of it, but she had wanted, no needed, to see the place for herself. Reluctantly, he had handed over the keys.
* * *
Pauline, when you read the book I hope you feel I captured Holly’s feelings, and touched on some of the issues faced by women who have lost their life partner or spouse.
Thank you for the inspiration.