Chapter One

Chapter One

A Chapter by Kelly M.
"

Feel free to laugh at this one. I encourage it!

"

BUMP!


Mary Rose Taylor squealed as she went flying off her red cushioned seat.


This is it.  This is the end, she thought, her eyes squeezed shut.  I won't even get to see Aunt Erma for the first time before I'm six feet underground.


But before Mary had the chance to envision the dozens of pink roses lining her gravesite, she, to her relief, landed safely-- and then noticed in horror it was on top of the unsuspecting lap of the man occupying the seat next to her.  His beady-green eyes sparked in outrage.


"Pardon me!" he spat in disdain, jumping to his feet.


Mary quickly let out a string of apologies, met by a loud harrumph, as the man energetically plopped himself back onto his seat, hiding his hideous long nose behind his chronicle.  


Annoyance and embarrassment flamed Mary's cheeks a beet red as she created as much space as possible between her and the less-than-civilized gentleman beside her, whose mustache was twitching spiritedly.  


It's not my fault this contraption is unsafe! she thought heatedly, as she twisted her mother's handkerchief around her pinky finger, ignoring the amused gazes of other passengers, promising herself she would never ride anywhere-- ever-- by train again.


Too life threatening.


"Now, Mary," her father had assured her, "trains are more safe than stage coaches ever were-- no robberies, no dust in your eyes, no worries about having an aching back."


An aching back indeed, she thought as she placed a hand on the small of her back that she'd probably strained during her airborne flight.  It caused her to wonder, once again, how she'd let her father persuade her to go halfway across the country to meet an aunt she'd never known.


"Mary," her father had said gently when she'd argued tearfully with him about the idea, "your aunt needs somebody.  She needs you-- and I daresay it's high past time you met her."


She'd already conjured up a picture in her mind of her Aunt Erma.  Watery-eyed.  Wrinkly.  Thin as a board.  Hunched over with a cane for support. 


"You'll be a godsend to her, Mary," her dad had insisted.


Mary knew what that meant-- the poor woman was dying.  And, she of all people, who would keel over at the slightest sight of blood, was being sent to make her condition more comfortable before she crossed that great divide.  


Mary carefully eyed her medical kit at her feet, full of garden herbs, a first aid kit, and her old maid, Marta's dreadful tonics.  


One must always be prepared, her mother had used to say.


Mary reached out a hand to tuck a wayward strand of dark hair behind her ear.  She missed her mother, more than anything.  She may have inherited her father's dark brown eyes and chocolate-colored hair, but she'd always had her mother's spirit.


"Both of you have the wildest imaginations," her father had said once, his eyes twinkling.  They had always twinkled-- that is, back when her mother was still alive.


"Everything would be different if she were still here," Mary had whispered to Marta on the train station platform the day before, her eyes filling with tears.  "How can I do this?"


"Now, now," Mary could still recall Marta saying firmly, yet gently, "it's not the place of the world you're in that determines your joy, but the place your heart's in."  She'd patted her arm encouragingly, a rare gesture of kindness.  "You just remember that, Mary."


Mary's eyes wandered out the window where the greenness of Boston had blurred into a golden brown.


Lord, please, she silently prayed.  Help me accept this as Your will.  I'm so out of place.  She eyed the mustached passenger beside her, whose newspaper was now draped over his face as he snored so loudly Mary's knees knocked together.


And I'm alone.


A voice so soft suddenly swept over Mary.


I am with you always, even to the end of the age.


Her heart let out a soft cry as a nonverbal prayer of gratitude escaped her.


It was all she needed.


~*~


Erma pursed her lips together in a thin line. 


Of all days for the train to be late, she groused, pacing the station back and forth until her calf muscles were sore.  


"Land sakes," Erma could still hear Edith Fields exclaiming when she'd bumped into her on her way to the station.  "You're awful persnickety today, aren't you?" she'd said, her eyes twinkling in jest.  "What's got your tail in such a knot?"


Erma had grumbled something typical about the weather, and Edith had only shook her silvery head and laughed.  That was Edith-- as happy-go-lucky as the day was long.  They'd been best friends back since the second grade, but, even now, with both their heads crowned the color of snow-white, Edith was still her sunshiny, sparkling self.  And Erma-- well, she'd just gotten ornery.


Edith had poked her arm playfully.  "That arthritis sure does kick in when folks like you and me get to be old geezers, doesn't it?"


"Arthritis," Erma muttered as she tapped her wooden cane on the station platform in loud annoyance-- too loudly, she realized, when she noticed, Gus, the widowed station master, suddenly catch her eye.  His whiskered face broke out into a grin as broad as the Pacific Ocean.


Horrified, Erma wheeled around, searching for a place to hide herself.  The last person she wanted to have a conversation with was Gus Murphy, the town's latest widower, who was far too eager for female companionship ever since the sudden passing of his wife last winter.


Why, if Bertha were still alive...


But Bertha wasn't alive.  She'd died of a lung disease, the doctors had said.


A lung disease indeed, Erma humphed.  I wouldn't be surprised if that vile cigar smoke he reeks of is what gave Bertha the final push over to glory.


"Well, well, well," Gus called out jovially, startling Erma as he swung his way to her side, his pocket watch bouncing on his buttoned vest, "if it isn't Erma Rose!  What are you doing out here on this scorcher of a day?"÷


Erma's face confronted his with an angry scowl, but he only grinned back, revealing a one-sided dimple on his unshaven cheek.  She tried to sidestep him, but he planted himself in her direction.


"Now, now, not so fast, Erma," he held up his arms, winking at her.


She eyed him coldly.  "If you insist on nosing around, Mr. Murphy," she said, veering away from his ardent stare, "I'm expecting someone."  She fixed her eyes on the train track, clutching her handbag more firmly, willing the train to make a hasty appearance, to save her from this over-eager, vile-smelling-- she eyed him-- belly-jostling widower.


"Ah," he said gently, laying a large hand on Erma's shoulder, "today's the day you get your little girlie, is that right?"


Erma shook herself from his grasp.  Grace Olson, she fumed inwardly at the town gossip.  Can't anyone in this town keep their mouth shut?


"She's almost seventeen, hardly a little girl," was all Erma replied with, straightening so stiffly she wouldn't have been surprised if a bone had snapped in her spinal column.


Gus's head bobbed up and down matter-of-factly at the clipped response, as though he knew everything the world need know about raising children when, he and his deceased wife, Bertha, hadn't given birth to a single one.


Thank goodness for that, she thought, dabbing her perspiring forehead with her hankie.


"Pretty thing, is she?" he surprised her by asking.


Erma stiffened.  Even if she was, she'd be way too young for you, she thought heatedly.


Instead, she merely stated: "Not if she got her looks from her father's side of the family."


Gus Murphy threw his head back and guffawed, then slapped Erma squarely on the back.  She jumped.


Of all the nerve!


"You always did have a sense of humor as dry as a desert," he declared, whisking his hat off his balding head and wiping the tears of mirth from his eyes. 


Erma had had enough.  But just as she was about to stick her big pointer finger to Gus's chest, and give him a piece of her mind-- a train whistle sounded off in the near distance.  Erma wheeled around to face the oncoming train, gripping a hand to her heart, grumbling something about how the forsaken weather was going to give her a heatstroke.  Gus didn't hear a word.  He was already rushing down to meet the noisy locomotive.


Like he's a reckless teenager, not sixty-five. 


"Whooee," Gus whistled, his heels clicking as he leapt into the air.  "The train's a'comin', folks!  The train's a'comin'!"


Erma fiddled with her starched collar.  A new and unwelcome emotion rattled in her chest-- one she wouldn't confess to in a million years.


Fear.


~*~


Mary coughed and shielded her eyes from the thick puff of steam as she scanned the station, trying to identify her elderly aunt in the crowd of expectant faces.  One-by-one she began to cross people off on her mental list as a potential Aunt Erma.


Too old. 


Too fancy.


A handsome, blond-haired man caught Mary's eye and she blushed crimson as she hastily changed direction.


Definitely not Aunt Erma.


But no matter how much she searched, she couldn't come up with a single face to match her mental description of her aunt.  Her hopes began to plummet.


Surely she knew I was coming today...


A sudden, bold voice from behind made Mary jump from her reverie.


"Mary Taylor?" 


Mary wheeled around, surprised to be looking into two sharp, brown eyes.  Not watery at all.  Not even bloodshot.  Both women took their time, sizing the other up from head-to-toe.


Surely, there must be some mistake, Mary thought, as she tried not to goggle at the fierce, big-boned woman standing erect before her.  Her aunt looked more like a bull rider than an elderly woman living her last days on earth.  Why, the only thing that proved Mary's imagination about her correct was the sturdy wooden cane she carried; but Mary had a feeling she used it more to whack people over the head with, than to support her in getting around.  


Mary gulped, and a sudden awkward silence fell over the dual.


Manners, something finally clicked in her brain, and she stepped forward shyly, holding out her hand.


"Yes, I'm Mary."  She managed a wobbly smile.  Her aunt merely stared at her through penetrating eyes.


Oh dear, Mary thought, straightening, realizing her aunt's eyes had zeroed in on her crooked smile.  Jeremiah Pridgeon, the chubby brute in Mary's classroom, had been faithful to always point out its lopsided, right edge.  Everybody always looked at her funny when she smiled.  Everybody.


"Poor Mary," people would say, "always getting into scrapes," or: "Poor Mary, always daydreaming."  Poor Mary this, poor Mary that!  It wasn't her fault Betty Jo had rammed into her on her new shiny bicycle!  Why, she'd only been studying the hummingbird's fluttery wings in the maple tree above her when, from out of nowhere, there came Betty Jo, swerving down the lane at maximum speed-- right at Mary!


"Someday that girl's going to wake up without a a single tooth in her head," Marta had said with a grunt once.


After nearly being run over, it's a miracle I still have every single one of mine!


But before Mary had the chance to open her mouth and quickly explain to her Aunt Erma about the tragic accident with the run-in from her careless classmate, she'd already turned and was starting for the door.


What did I say...?


"My luggage," Mary finally called out awkwardly.  "What should I--?"


"What you can't carry can stay here."


"But--"


"The buggy's this way."


Mary's gaze fell to her two valises, her carpetbag, her hatbox, her purse, her parasol, and-- most importantly-- her medical bag.  She picked that up first, eyeing her Aunt Erma's retreating back.  She certainly couldn't leave that behind.


At this point, I could use one of Marta's dreadful tonics myself, she thought emphatically, bundling up all that she could and hurrying to catch up with her aunt.



© 2019 Kelly M.


Author's Note

Kelly M.
Well, readers, what are your thoughts? The first chapter is, of course, one of the most important chapters out of any book... it's where you get to meet the characters, get a feel for the coming plot, and all that jazz... so did I do that well here? Did I make you chuckle at all? ;)
Please feel free to comment :)

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"the only thing that proved Mary's imagination about her correct was the sturdy wooden cane she carried; but Mary had a feeling she used it more to whack people over the head with, than to support her in getting around"... such a funny line!!:)

One of the things I love about your writing is how wonderful your character development is!! You plan out your characters so well!! This chapter has a really good feel for Mary and Erma. Most of the time, I cant really get into characters in a story if they are older, but I absolutely love Erma!! She had me rolling!! I'm interested in reading more about why she is the way she is and also more about Mary, and I'm assuming there is going to be a little romance with the Mary character.... that would make my heart happy!:)

Anyways, such a wonderful first chapter!! I can't wait to read more!!!

Posted 5 Years Ago


Kelly M.

5 Years Ago

Krystal!! You encourage me to keep writing! Thank you SO much for reviewing; I always love your re.. read more
Definitely a few chuckles :D I would love to read more, can't wait to find out what happens between Mary and the aunt. So far, it seem like it could be very interesting and very amusing :P

Posted 5 Years Ago


Kelly M.

5 Years Ago

Wow, I'm so thankful for the review! Thank you so much for reading :)

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