Before moving on to the excerpt, here is a meme I found online. I couldn’t resist the cute kitten face with that sad expression.
It was a wild weekend for many of us in Texas as Hurricane Harold decided to spread havoc over much of the southern and middle portion of the state. We were lucky here in Northeast Texas that not much of the storm made it this far.
People in Rockport and Port Aransas were not so lucky, as this news story from USA Today points out.
I am thankful that my family that is closer to where the storm hit hardest, have all been spared any serious damage or flooding. Good news all around.
Now, I will share a bit more of my book, Evelyn Evolving. I finished the third draft about a month ago and have started sending query letters out. I don’t know which is harder. Writing a book or selling a book.
Tonight, however, she felt nothing but chilled to the bone and so hungry her stomach ached with the pain. She couldn’t wait to go to the sleeping ward and crawl into bed with Viola. The normal rule was only one child per cot, but because of the extreme cold, the Sisters allowed the children to double up. The children could also get into bed with their clothes on, so Evelyn didn’t take off her sweater or her shoes.
“You better not kick me,” Viola said as they snuggled under the quilt.
“I won’t. I’ll be still.”
Once everyone was settled, Sister Honora turned off the lights, and as darkness enveloped the room, the only sound in the room was the soft murmurs of children whispering to each other. When the murmurs slowly slid off into the deep breathing of sleep, Evelyn scooted closer to Viola’s back, seeking all the warmth she could get.
“Are you asleep?”
“I want to ask you something.”
“I said to hush.”
Viola rolled over and faced her sister. “What?”
“Why is there no more coal or food?”
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t they tell you in school?”
“A few weeks ago, Sister said something about banks closing and people losing money.”
“What does that mean?”
Viola sighed. “I don’t know for sure. But Sister said people who used to help us couldn’t any more. It has something to do with a depression.”
“I don’t know. Sister didn’t say anymore.”
“Will the people get the money back?”
“Oh, brother. When are you ever going to stop asking me all these questions? You’re not a baby anymore.”
Evelyn bit her lip to hold back the tears. Viola was right. They were no longer babies, but inside Evelyn still felt like that child who had watched their mother walk away and didn’t understand why. She felt like that child who believed if she was good and did what she was told, everything would be okay.
She closed her eyes and tried to drift off to sleep, and then she thought of something. What if she could get some money for the orphanage? Viola had told her that the silver spoon Evelyn had was worth money. Maybe she could give the spoon to Sister Honora to sell. Then there would be more coal and more food. And maybe Sister would smile at her and tell her she was a good girl. And everything really would be okay.
She let that thought carry her into sleep, and sometime later a loud clanging woke her. Metal against metal in a rapid, staccato, ear-blasting beat. She sat up, trying to remember when she had heard that sound before. Then it came to her. The fire drills. Once a month they practiced how to get out of the building in case of fire, but they had never had a drill at night. It was always done during the day. Sometimes they would pretend it was night and go to the sleeping ward to learn how to get out. Was this a drill or the real thing?
Viola threw back the quilt and pushed Evelyn. “Move! We have to get out.”
Evelyn tumbled off the cot and grabbed her box of treasures as the noise intensified and Sister Honora came into view, banging a washtub with a large metal spoon. “Make your lines and go out the way we practiced. DO NOT RUN! Grab your blankets and move quickly in an orderly manner.”
“Is there really a fire?” Evelyn asked Sister.
“Yes. Now go.”
The urge to run was strong, but Evelyn fought it down. Some instinct told her that if just one person panicked, everyone would. She clung to the box while Viola grabbed the quilt off the bed. They held hands and followed the line of girls out into the great hall. The acrid odor of smoke burned Evelyn’s nose. Sister Magdalene stood in the middle of the great hall, directing the lines of children toward the front doors. The boys came from the other side, and the two lines moved in tandem. Two more Sisters were at the heavy oak doors and opened them so the kids could pass through.
Outside, the children huddled on the great expanse of lawn that was covered in several inches of snow that shimmered in the moonlight. Evelyn was thankful she had gone to bed with her shoes on, but still her feet were cold and she shivered under the quilt with Viola. The nuns stood in a line between the children and the burning building, but Evelyn could still see the flames that crawled up the side of the building like great orange and yellow fingers.
Several of the younger children had started to cry, and Sister Honora told them all to be brave. “Just be thankful we got out alive.”
“How did the fire start?” Viola asked.
“In the kitchen,” Sister said. “The cook left the stove door open for more heat. An ember must have fallen out.”
Evelyn glanced at the fire again. It was amazing that one little ember could cause this inferno. Despite the efforts of the few neighbors who had come to try to stop the fire, it appeared that the flames would consume what had been her home for almost eight years. The side that held the kitchen was gone, and the greedy fire had moved across the front of the building. The buckets of water that people threw at the flames had no effect. What would happen now that the orphanage was gone?
After a few minutes, the people stepped back and dropped their buckets, leaving the fire to burn out. The groundskeeper, Mr. Mugliardi ran up to Sister Honora, his breath fogging in the cold air. “Ach, what a tragedy. We tried our best.”
“Yes. You did. And I thank you for the effort.”
Kindness was not something Evelyn had ever seen in Sister Honora, and her response to Mr. Mugliardi surprised her.
“Were you able to call the authorities?” Sister asked Mr. Mugliardi.
“Yes, Ma’am. People will be a’coming to take the youngsters to the empty building at the Lutheran’s.”
“It is very nice of them to let us use the building.”
“Tis for the children, ma’am. They said religion is no matter when it comes to helping the children.”
Evelyn watched the tall, gaunt man stride away. Where was this other place where they were going? How far away was it? Would her mother be able to find them there? She clutched Viola’s cold hand. “I’m scared.”
That’s all for today, folks. I hope your week is off to a good start.