When I heard why I was being called on the carpet, I made myself a cup of coffee and brought the animal crackers to the table, no matter what Ivy Leigh had said. Maybelle scowled at the bag, but did not comment.
I took a swig of coffee and tried to appear nonchalant, sitting sideways in my chair and crossing my legs.
“What is it about the men in your lives?” I asked. “I’ve done well by all three of you.”
Bonny Bee pursed her lips. Ivy Leigh cut her eyes at me. Maybelle sighed profoundly.
“What, may I ask, do you mean by ‘well’?” Bonny Bee asked.
Her tone made me swivel back to face forward in my chair, both feet planted on the floor, like a school child at a desk. I centered my coffee cup on a napkin and closed the bag of animal crackers.
“Do you mean do well by you?” I asked.
“Not to pat myself on the back or anything, Bonny Bee, but I started your story after Calico Jack left. He wasn’t in a single scene with you, not in a single chapter.”
Bonny Bee set her cup on her saucer. “I don’t mean Calico Jack, dear. I mean Fitz.”
The mere mention of his name made me smile. Of all my male characters, Fitz was the most charming, the most romantic, the most virile. A reformed pirate, Royce Fitzcannon was tall, handsome, a suitably scarred swashbuckler, whose every consideration, morning till night, was of Bonny Bee Rackham and her welfare. The very thought of him distracted me. I gazed through the blinds at the dark night while the scene in the attic of the Peregrine Inn wafted through my mind. That was one of my finest hours as a writer.
“You’re smiling,” Ivy Leigh said.
I shook off the images, vowing to re-read the scene when I was alone.
“Fitz is the kind of man every woman dreams about,” I said.
“I certainly do,” Bonny Bee said. “And I’d like to know if he’s ever going to be more than caretaker of the Inn. I mean, my goodness, Madame Author, it’s been seven years since you published my story. Seven.”
“I can top that,” Maybelle said, “she’s never even published my story. Just a few random chapters here and there. Not in any kind of order.” She faced me. “You’ve never even had a cover made.”
“I’ve thought about it,” I said, half-apologizing, half-whining.
“You obviously love this guy Fitz,” Maybelle said and then pointed at Ivy Leigh. “And her husband Mr. Hampton comes off as a saint in both books he’s been in…wait…he’s been in three books. And you’ve paid precious little attention to my husband Zeke. Is it because he’s just a farmer?”
“Torbert Hampton is a janitor,” I said, bristling.
“Now wait just a minute,” Ivy Leigh said. “He used to be a janitor. He’s in real estate now and he owns all those classic cars and he’s a craftsman. Have you forgotten about his workshop?”
I had turned Ivy Leigh’s eyes on many a resident of the Magnolia Arms… that look that said, ‘straighten yourself up right now,’ but when I was on the receiving end, I found my voice stuck in my throat.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” I said. “I made it clear being a janitor was perfectly noble and besides that, Mr. Hampton had more sense than any other character in the book. He persuaded Toby to go home, didn’t he?”
“Which book was that?” Bonny Bee asked.
“Road to Briarwood,” I said.
“Oh,” she said, laying her spoon next to her empty cup, “you see, I have to ask because you’ve written so many Magnolia Arms stories that it’s hard to keep them straight, whereas I have had only one story…so…”
I felt like a week-old helium balloon.
“Back up the trolley,” I said, “I can only deal with one—”
“Trolley?” Bonny Bee asked.
“A means of transportation,” Ivy Leigh said. “Late 19th century.”
“And Mr. Rogers,” I added.
“Who?” Bonny Bee asked again.
“You would’ve liked him,” I said. “Or you would like him…in the future. Now where were we?”
Ivy Leigh resumed. “Maybelle wants to know why Zeke has never appeared in a book.”
Since they had appointed themselves as a jury, I addressed all of them, lawyer-like, speaking in my own defense.
“Maybelle’s story is the only one I’ve ever publicly told to an audience…actually acted out…with the proper dialect and Zeke has appeared in all of them.” I counted off on my fingers. “Augusta’s birth, the Vegetable Parade, Scottish heritage… to more audiences than I can count. Maybelle and Zeke are legendary…known all over the country, may I add.”
I included that bit of information, because when I had told the story of Maybelle’s twins, Ned and Zed, doing their family tree (and all the chaos that resulted) at a storytelling event, the performance had been videoed and I had made copies to send to friends…all over the country, as I had said. I was not exaggerating.
“My point exactly,” Maybelle said. “A story here. A story there, but Zeke’s character has never been fully developed. Not like Mr. Hampton—him being a lonely widower and raising a son on his own, or like this pirate and how he fought that fellow Quentin Drake. Where are Zeke’s heroic acts? His”—she glanced at Ivy Leigh and wagged her hand—” you know, telling where he was before the reader meets him.”
“Backstory,” Ivy Leigh said.
“Backstory,” Maybelle said, folding her arms.
That was priceless Hollybee just priceless. You are definitely a good writer. Thanks