On Thursday I introduced you to Georgia Ferguson, one of two major characters in Somewhere Between Luck and Trust. Georgia was familiar because she was a minor character in One Mountain Away, the previous book.
Now, enter Cristy Haviland, a fresh face in the series and a young woman fresh out of prison whose own background rivals Georgia’s for drama. Cristy was a blank page just waiting for me to write her story.
And what did I know about Cristy? Here’s the beginning of her autobiography. Remember, this is what I wrote for myself:
Sometimes, when I lie on the bottom bunk in my quad at NCCIW, listening to women sobbing or caught in the grip of unspeakable nightmares, I try to find the turning points in my life. I have succeeded with some, but not all, and perhaps not even the most important.
The most primary eludes me still. At what point did my parents decide I was beyond hope? When did whatever natural love a parent feels for an infant seep away so completely that today, I am less to them than even the most troubled or troubling member of my father’s congregation?
I think I see the edges of that still-fuzzy picture. I remember happy moments in early childhood. A doll I’d yearned for under our Christmas tree. A favorite chocolate cake on my birthdays. An Easter dress that was the exact replica of my sister Clara’s, and even better, our pretty young mother’s. Clara, older by four years, invited me to tea parties under the magnolia tree in our front year. Mama brought us buttered toast and fresh raspberries. Daddy took photographs they may not have thrown away, although it’s unlikely.
I believe the picture altered subtly over time. I was a pretty child, with long blond curls and rosy cheeks. While my parents never encouraged vanity, my mother liked to show me off. Clara, sturdier, plainer, was never slighted, but I was the child strangers exclaimed over. In later years, of course, that changed when it became clear I wasn’t as smart as my sister, that while Clara began to read in kindergarten, I went to school without recognizing my ABCs.
There was renewed belief in me when my first grade teacher entrusted me with a long solo at our Christmas program. The room grew silent as I sang in my high, clear little girl voice, and the applause was loud and long. My parents promptly bought a piano and hired a teacher. I could pick out melodies, and play whatever the teacher demonstrated for me, but unfortunately for them, I had no interest in learning to read music.
No interest, of course, was the way my parents saw my problems with letters and musical notes. I was lazy. As a young child they had spoiled me with praise, and now they had to undo the harm. Rebellion would not be tolerated in our home. Charts appeared. I had to earn every privilege. Dessert after meals. The toys I had taken for granted. Play time outside and television inside. The charts were a blur to me, words I didn’t understand, lines that seemed to wave at me from the page. Clara, who is a kinder person than the people who raised her, would explain the lines to me each time they changed while I stood beside her memorizing them.
Memorizing was my savior. I remembered almost everything that was said to me. And while I still couldn’t read, I paid attention in class and learned whatever I could, enough, most of the time to get by. The teacher told my parents that some children just took longer than others to catch on, and that I was perfectly bright. But I know Mama and Daddy didn’t believe her.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into the two major characters in my new book, as well as the way I begin to understand their stories and where they’ll go from there. Even though most of what I’ve written for myself has already occurred in my characters’ lives, this background is really where my story begins.