Here's an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Blanche Barrow:
When she felt lonely, which was quite often, Blanche liked to imagine that she and her mother—a woman she barely knew—shared a similar world view; as if staring at the same cloud in a different sky would yield the same sad clown, the same lazy riverboat. This was particularly true when it came to the town of Garvin, a tiny whistle-stop nestled along the southern shore of the Little River, which despite its dwindling population still boasted four lumber mills and three churches. Blanche, who was then known only as Bennie, was born there and had known nothing else–nothing but the thick smell of pine and the ever-watchful eyes of the lord upon her, which were only slightly less oppressive than the ever-present sawdust. It was everywhere, shaken from the folds of dresses and pooling in the streets like rainwater on summer afternoons. Persistent, it fell from the pages of schoolbooks and was brushed like dandruff from the broad shoulders of merchants in their overcoats. In the evenings, Blanche would often find it hiding like lice in her father’s whiskers or in the bristles of her hairbrush. She grew to hate the sawdust, just as she grew to hate Garvin.
So, Blanche was certain that Lillian must have hated Garvin too. Why else would she have slipped away in the night at only sixteen years old, leaving behind an infant screaming in her cradle as her father looked on, sorrowful and puzzled? Blanche’s father was nearly 25 years older than Lillian. He was a logger, simple and soft-spoken–perhaps too simple and too soft-spoken for Lillian. Her abandonment of the family had rendered the Caldwells the subject of tireless gossip and whispered accusations. Opinions on Matthew Caldwell were divided amongst the citizens of Garvin. To some, he was the poor, sweet man to be admired for raising a young girl on his own. To others, he was the monster in the closet that had driven young Lillian away. As a result, the people of Garvin always viewed Blanche with suspicion.
Such a sad little girl.
Pretty like her mother but who knows what secrets she keeps.
You can’t trust a Caldwell.
Through it all, Matthew Caldwell never said a word against Lillian. In fact, it was widely understood that he never said a word against anyone. He was not a man of strong opinions. Blanche often wondered if Lillian hated him for that. Blanche sometimes did.
Blanche did her best to live up to the expectations of Garvin. She had no friends to speak of. She spent her time reading books and taking long walks in the woods. She often went days without making a sound. For his part, Matthew Caldwell was grateful for the silence. Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Blanche bore a strong resemblance to Lillian. This similarity pained him greatly and he was as puzzled by his daughter now as he was when Blanche was an infant, crying for her mother. And while he often wondered what she was thinking, sometimes it was easier to pretend that Blanche didn’t exist. But tomorrow was her birthday.
“You’ve got an important day tomorrow, Bennie. Is there something special you would like?”
Blanche shrugged indifferently. She could not tell him what she truly wanted. It would be too hurtful. Still, she wanted nothing more than to scream, to shout at the top of her lungs that she desired nothing more than to leave Garvin forever, to leave behind the taste of sawdust and to see a world that existed beyond his meager imagination.
“Perhaps a new dress?” she asked.
© 2016 gibson grand