Here’s how my writing tonight started:
I don’t know. This is bad for me to not know what is happening.
I seriously just feel like going on amazon and shopping right now. Hows that for avoidance behavior.
Jo. Who is Jo? I don’t know. I don’t know. What do I know then? NOT MUCH! UGH.
BOY AM I GLAD that I didn’t go shopping! I just kept writing, even thought I felt completely lame. I just started writing about what I knew about Jo, about why she was the way she was, what had happened in her life to make her into the person she is now. It helped — it helped a lot. So, tonight’s excerpt is a lot of exposition and backstory. This likely won’t show up in the book in this exact form. It may appear in flash backs, or maybe even in some extended exposition — I hardly know at this point.
But, considering how I started, it feels like a win. I’ll take it.
***********The McKendrick Saga — Excerpt Day 7 *****************
Jolene’s father Charles used to breed horses; that’s how he’d made his living when he first came to Boston. The McKendricks had always worked with the land, and worked with horses, first in their ancestral land of Scotland, and then later after they had immigrated to Ireland. As a young man in Ireland, Charles had married his childhood sweetheart, then tragically lost her during the birth of their son, Jared. Consumed with grief, Charles had not had the heart to keep working the land, the land he had worked and shared with his lovely young wife. He had determined to take his young son and make his way to relatives in the Americas and start over, start fresh. And that’s exactly what he had done, arriving in the new world having already secured a position contracts with several important families up and down the states to evaluate and ensure their breeding stock.
One of those contracts was with Emory Lockwood of Boston. Emory was a textile magnate who, like many of his Boston “Brahmin” peers with newly acquired wealth, had also recently acquired a taste for the trappings of pseudo-aristocracy. Navigating his way up the social heirarchy, Lockwood became acquainted with Charles McKendrick’s work with some of the more established members of the Brahmins. Lockwood decided then and there that he would have Charles McKendrick to establish his own breeding stock, and cement Lockwood’s place among his peers as well.
It was a decision he forever after regretted, since his daughter had eloped with Charles McKendrick in the dead of night, and given birth to Jolene not long after.
Charles may have married Charity, but that didn’t mean he was welcome in the Lockwood house or the Lockwood life. As far as Emory was concerned, Charity made her bed, now she could lie in it. And so it was that Charles built a small and tidy house on an attractive horse property just on the outskirts of town. In spite of Charity’s protests and mortification over the demeaning nature of working with cattle, Charles had continued to breed horses. He did a fine job of supporting his little family. It was dignified, and Charles didn’t care who thought different.
Charity, despite her name, did not have a charitable bone in her body. She had grown up a spoiled little girl in a house where everything had been given to her on demand. The thought of giving all that up to live in the country with her common laborer husband and a mewling new babe was just too much for her to handle. She had taken to her bed and to having frequent fits of the vapors, or so Charles called them.
When Jolene was very young, the family had employed a nanny for her care. But as she grew, Charles began taking Jolene with him and Jared to work with the horses. Jared taught her to ride. Charles taught her everything else. It was a magical childhood, full of fun and adventure. But it all changed when she was nine and Grandfather Lockwood died.
Jolene could barely remember her Grandfather Lockwood, since they were not accepted by him and had very little contact. She recalled vaguely a stern old man that always looked at her as if he was disappointed. She did remember the way in which her mother fawned all over him on the few occasions he came to visit.
Lockwood’s visits were always a big production. Charity, who usually spent the majority of her day in bed or in the drawing room on the fainting couch, would suddenly become full of energy, directing Charles and the children, as well as the one house maid they had, to a mindless frenzy of cleaning, polishing, washing, and more. Dressed in their best clothing (which was not altogether that fine), Jared and Jolene would stand at attention and wait to be inspected by their grandfather. Jolene remembered the stiffness of the starched fabric, and the itches that she didn’t dare to scratch in this imposing man’s presence. Above all, she remembered being very glad when the old man in his fancy carriage trundled away and life returned to normal.
Grandfather Lockwood had died a very wealthy man — wealth that Charles and Charity would never see, since it would likely pass directly to Charity’s brother Andrew. But the old man’s hubris had gotten the better of him, and he had never formalized a will or entailment. The cholera fever of ’49 had taken both Charity’s brother and father in one fell swoop, making Charity the only one to inherit. The McKendrick family’s prospects had changed in an instant; all of the Lockwood property passed to Charity, and by default, her husband. The irony was not lost on Charles.
With the sudden windfall, Charity had insisted, of course, that the family move to town, into the Lockwood family residence. She vowed she would not live in a house that smelled of cattle and manure for one more minute. She demanded that Charles give up the little property in the country, and take a more active interest in the family business– the Lockwood family business. Charles protested he knew nothing of managing a textile factory, that he was much more suited to working with animals and the land. But Charity was as immovable and unrelenting as the very rock of Gibraltar.
Weary of the constant barrage of Charity’s haranguing, Charles finally gave in. He sold the horse property he loved, along with most of his prized sires and mares. And along with the horses had gone his vitality, his sense of purpose, his dignity as a man who had always made his own way in this world.
Charles had settled uncomfortably into the running of the mill much like the way one settles into a pair of too-tight shoes — forced, restrictive, and full of painful grimaces. The mill was slowly strangling him, like the proverbial mill stone hung around the neck of a man condemned. Charles was no longer the same man that Jolene had known for the first nine years of her life – a man full of life and joviality, quick to laugh or tell a joke. A shadow had taken up his place.