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A Graceful Death
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the
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Also by Ann Summerville
Storms & Secrets
A Graceful Death
The air hung like a blanket — stifling, humid, constricting. No different from that day the fire
started. The fan cools me but in 1942 there were no fans. London was trapped in a war and heat
wave it was unprepared for. Heat and fear gripped my family and tempers flared.
I bite the quick around my nail thinking of that August night – sibling rivalry, childish revenge.
An air raid lit the sky like fireworks igniting a vacant lot where a house once stood but now a field of
rubble. Under cover of darkness, with only flack lighting the sky, I had taken my sister’s ring - a gift
from our father. A father I had never met. She cried, I smiled.
It was just a prank I told myself, I’ll return it one day. But the years went by and it sat under the
felt in my pink jewelry box. The box with a ballerina that twirled when the lid opened.
I grip the ring in my wrinkled hand then open my fingers staring at the tiny diamond surrounded
with blue stones like petals. With my other hand I adjust my black hat and veil and brush an
imaginary particle from the lapel of the black dress. Today the tears will come, tears of regret and
sorrow. Today I will return the ring, place it in the urn of ashes then stop at my father’s grave to
talk to a man I never knew.
From his vantage point Greg watched the bridge. Only this morning the orange structure
barely peaked through a blanket of fog. Behind him he heard a hissing sound as steam erupted
from his car. Six hundred dollars down the drain. As if confirming his folly the steam gave a final
Five years he worked on that bridge. Day after day Patrick and Greg had welded massive
beams, now in May 1937 it was finally complete. He pictured Patrick balancing on the steel girder.
He held on as the winds gusted around them. Patrick had lost his balance and fell, disappearing
into the swirling waters below.
Greg gritted his teeth. Now all he had was a broken down car, no job and barely enough for a
gallon of milk. He opened his fingers and looked at the two dull quarters in his palm.
“Five years for this!” Greg shouted. The eerie sound echoed in the Bay.
He watched the celebrations below. Thousands of people crossed the bridge on foot. Streamers
fluttered in the wind, applause reverberated in his ears.
“Damn it Pat. We were supposed to be friends forever.” He stood and kicked a rock with
his steel toed shoe. “Find a nice girl and settle down in the same town you said.”
He looked again at his life savings and raised his arm. He threw the coins into the blue waters
below and followed their path. He could hear cheers from the bridge as the ground beneath his
Waiting for Chelsea
Karen gazed out across the Nevada desert. Would he come? Would he bring Chelsea?
She tapped her foot in frustration and asked herself why she allowed him so much control over
her feelings - after all they weren’t married. The child was a mistake he said, and yet every summer
he took Chelsea. And every summer Karen worried for a month, paced the floor waiting for the
phone call telling her where to pick up her daughter.
“This time I’ll tell him. Let him know how I feel.” Her foot kicked at the loose rocks. “I’ll
tell him there has to be rules.” She bit her lip.
She wondered what he would say when she told him they were going. Leaving Reno - their old
life. She reached in the car window and looked at the bright red circles outlining jobs in Los
Angeles. Waitressing would be temporary Karen told herself. She would audition, become an
actress, they would start again. After all home is where the heart is and Chelsea was all the home
Climbing behind the wheel Karen glanced at the box. Chelsea would love the doll with the red
dress, her favorite color. In the mirror she outlined her lips, spread a film of crimson lipstick and
ran her hand through blonde curls. A movement in the mirror caught her eye and Karen turned to
see a car stop, heard a door slam, and then watched it skid on the gravel before leaving in a cloud of
dust. She climbed from the car. Through the dust she saw red - a tiny balloon clutched in a pudgy
hand. The confrontation could wait until next summer - Chelsea had come home.
Along the fence, a wisteria bush sprawled. The once neat bushes were gnarled and tangled.
Vines climbing between wooden slats that barely supported the cumbersome plant scattered with
Lavender flowers. The road was familiar but not as I had remembered. Memories erupted as I
looked beyond the bush to where a school once stood; a building where I spent my elementary years
and learned sums and ABCs. Children’s voices no longer echoed in the playground. The laughter
I gazed at the new structure, a supermarket; the open area now a parking lot. I climbed behind
the wheel and drove farther along the road toward my childhood home, remembering a Victorian
structure with wooden cornices, red brick and ornate molding. I pictured the dahlias my father
lovingly cultivated, the grass where he knelt and pulled weeds. I smiled remembering daisies my
sister and I picked to make necklaces and crowns of white and yellow flowers. A horn made me
flinch as I slowed and then stopped to stare at the stark driveway. The picket fence had been
removed, flower seeds trapped under a grey mass of concrete. White stucco replaced the red and
orange brick, a satellite dish sprouted from the wall. I walked to the corner and looked at the stark
apartments like boxes that had replaced small terraced homes of childhood friends. Impersonal
buildings sprawled down the street wiping out everything in its path and taking with it the church
where my parents were married; a Norman structure with a spire rising high toward the sun.
Coming home was not how I had imagined. Long gone were the childhood friends, long gone were
the familiar structures of my youth. I sat in the rented car and pulled slowly into the busy street,
rounded a corner and headed toward the hospice to see the mother I no longer recognized. Her
familiar scent of cigarette smoke and flowery perfume had been replaced with antiseptic and
nondiscriminate odors. No. Nothing was as I remembered.
The market place bustled as it had six years ago. Bright cloth billowed from stalls, flies hovered
around hanging meat. For me the 1920s had begun with a roar, a new bride and a new career.
But I had needed to return, return to my first love.
I hadn’t wanted to arouse curiosity but my white linen suit caused people to stare. I was out of
place, unlike the time in 1914 when as a young man I had blended into the surroundings. I need to
find myself I told my surprised parents as I packed a small bag and headed on my journey to seek
inner peace. She had shown me that peace and I remembered gazing into those dark eyes and
feeling at home. Then came the telegram: Come home - Father dying.
Shaking my head I wondered what I was doing here? I had an empire to run, a factory, employees
waiting for direction. From the familiar doorway I stared at the door now faded and chipped with
variegated green paint. A flash of crimson caught my vision and I looked, beyond the trail of scarf
hanging from the window, to the puzzled face. A small grubby hand gripped the linen of my white
trousers. Those eyes familiar, but smaller, gazed up at me. We stared at each other. He gripped
the trouser leg tighter, leaving behind greasy fingerprints. “Papa,” he said as if he’d always known
me. “Mama is waiting.”
Children of the Night
Mexico City spewed nicotine colored haze into the air as the sun began its descent toward the
horizon. I pictured the ladies of the night who would soon appear. Clad in bright skimpy
costumes. Designed to amuse, and entrap, they would slink from the moonlit shadows.
As I reached the inner city, children in rags begged on street corners. Clothes hung tattered from
skinny limbs. I covered my nose with a white handkerchief and breathed in the strong smell of
eucalyptus oil while holding the other protectively on my pocket. I would need identification, a
passport, money. I waited.
“What you want?” said a loud voice. Too loud and too deep for the small body.
“I get you any.”
I frowned, puzzled by the strong and strange dialect.
“I get you anything. What you want?” He persisted as he opened his dirt streaked hand and
pointed to his palm. “Cheap. I get you what you want cheap.”
“A blonde.” I leaned forward still covering my nostrils. “Do you know where I can get a
blonde? She must be young. You understand?”
“Yeah. Blonde.” He said as he swiveled his hips and with his hand outlined his young boyish
body showing curves where there were none.
“I show you. You come.”
We rounded a corner. He stopped and held out the grubby hand once more.
I reached deep into my pocket and pulled out coins and dropped them into the outstretched hand.
“More.” He said frowning.
“When I see her.” I put my hand protectively over the pocket.
He nodded as if this was expected and continued down the narrow street.
“Come. Quick.” He whispered and gestured with his hand. He peered around the corner.
“Blonde. See.” He pointed. “I go now.” He held out his hand again.
“Wait. I need to know —”
“Blonde. Young. See.” He moved closer. “You pay me.”
Yes I could see, my eyes adjusted to the darkness and a blonde woman appeared in the shadows. A
tear slid down my cheek as I watched her move her hips the way the boy had shown me. He
looked at me confused.
“You pay me.” His voice was agitated.
I placed more coins into his hand and heard him scurry off as the young woman approached me,
sultry and street wise. The blonde hair was matted and dirty not like the hair I had touched gently
when I kissed her on the forehead, not like the hair that her mother brushed. She stopped and
smiled. The smile of a princess.
“Daddy.” She whispered. “I knew you’d find me.”
City of Brotherly Love
From the computer screen, John scanned the pictures on each page of the Philadelphia
“So much for the city of brotherly love.” He mumbled as he read an article about Pennsylvania’s
well known city.
Finding what he was looking for, he printed the wedding announcement, glanced over his shoulder
at the librarian and grabbed the printed page. The bride’s face was as beautiful as he had
“So they did it.” Remembering her honeyed words oozing with false promises, he crumpled
the paper and stuffed it into his pocket.
He turned his head, catching a glance of the librarian’s face before she looked away.
Embarrassed, she adjusted her glasses and pulled her brown hair like a curtain around her face.
Now he knew for sure, what was he going to do about it? John bit his lip and patted his jacket
pocket feeling the announcement. His shoulders slumped. Revenge wasn’t his way. What was
the point? He asked himself. In the end their being together was a justice of sorts. Two deceitful
people making a life together.
A soft whisper reached his ears like a summer breeze. “Johnny?”
Turning, he looked again at the librarian now standing behind him and squinted. “Miranda?”
“I thought it was you.” She looked at the computer screen, glanced at the wedding picture
and then back at John. “They hurt me too you know.” A tear fell as she protectively slid her
hand across a rounded belly.
“Yeah. He knew I was pregnant when he married Deidra.”
“I thought she was the love of my life you know.”
“I know John. And you were the love of mine.”
“Then why. . . .” He looked down.
“Because I thought I could never have you. Your brother can be very charming.”
“Charming and shallow.”
“What did you mean you thought she was the love of your life?”
John smiled. “Because. . .” He slid his hand into Miranda’s. “I realized it wasn’t love. It was you
I missed when I was away. It was you I saw every time I thought about my life here.”
“And now?” She looked down and gulped.
John stood and wrapped his arms around Miranda, then pushed her hair from her face. “Now I
want to start again and do it right this time.”
He turned off the monitor and watched the wedding picture disappear from the screen.
From Humble Beginnings
“They ‘ad another one.” Flora nodded toward the dismal stone building.
“Boy?” Oliver’s eyes squinted as the fog swirled around him.
“Yeah. Mrs. Nickleby said they’re calling him Charles.”
“1812 is gonna be a tough year for that family, make no mistake.” Oliver sniffed and pulled at a
dirty woolen glove.
“Never come to any good if you ask me.” Flora adjusted a wicker basket over her arm.
“The father’s a clerk at the Naval Office ain’t he?”
“He is. But . . .” Flora shook her head. “. . . don’t know what he does with the money though.
Squanderin’ is just a trait of nature. You mark my words that family ‘ll end up in Debtor’s Prison.”
Oliver pulled up his collar. “Miserable weather. Maybe I should sign up to go to ‘merica. I ‘ear
they need soldiers.”
“Oliver.” Flora put down her basket, and gripped his lapel. “We only just got married. You could
He embraced her waist and squeezed. “It’s just a thought.”
“You wanna go down and see if we can sell some of these to ladies off the boats?” She adjusted
the colorful ribbons in her basket.
Oliver rubbed his hands together. “We could pick some pockets if there’s some gents down
“No Oliver. We can make an honest living without that.”
As they turned toward Portsmouth Harbor, Oliver looked over his shoulder. “What did you say the
child’s name was again?”
“Charles. Charles Dickens.”
Out of the frying pan
This can’t continue Heather told herself as a cockroach scurried under the stainless steel counter.
She pulled a strand of hair from her face and tucked it beneath a dingy baseball cap.
When she approached her uncle two years ago, her dream had been of a little bistro tucked into
a tree lined street. She shuddered as a semi-truck rumbled past the building. A small loan she had
said. How had he talked her into working for him in this hole in the wall where everything was
covered in grease?
“Are you listening?” Becky yelled over the cacophony of raised voices and rattle of cheap
tableware. “Two cheeseburgers with fries. And don’t burn them this time.” She turned to
another waitress “And Miss La-De-Da calls herself a chef. Humf.”
Heather tightened the stained apron around her waist and threw two frozen patties on to the hot
grill watching the fat melt and sizzle. She placed a slice of processed cheese on the top and opened
a bag of French fries. Hardly her idea of French cuisine.
She turned to Becky. “I could work somewhere else you know.”
“Huh. Not likely.” Retorted Becky. “Your uncle has a gold mine here. He’s never gonna let
Heather’s shoulders slumped. Becky was right. He was not going to let her go easily. She
shivered as a long thin grey tail swished under the refrigerator.
Becky slapped a ticket on the counter. “This is the last one and as soon as he leaves I’m off to
see my fiancé.” She admired the dull cubic zirconia stone on her finger. “Your uncle is a very
generous man but I guess I’m the only one who appreciates him.”
“Aren’t you going to lock up?”
“It’s not like you ever have any plans. Can’t you do it?”
Heather closed her eyes wishing she was somewhere else.
“I’ll do it. But this is the last time.”
As the last customer left, Becky tossed her apron on to an empty table and opened the door.
She turned back toward Heather “And don’t burn the place down.”
Sighing Heather threw a handful of frozen potatoes into a vat and watched them brown
immediately. She listened to the sizzling fat as she dropped the baseball cap and apron and opened
the door. Pausing, she listened to the vat sizzle.
“Yep.” She closed the door, turned the key and smiled. “This is the last time.”
Self Imposed Punishment
Scrubbing the bath tub had become a self imposed punishment for me. At eights years old
there were few places I could hide from the wrath of my dad.
I closed the toilet seat and sat as I thought of the morning events. The newspaper ripped as I
retrieved it from Buster’s mouth and later mom’s favorite vase had slipped from my hand. I had
once showed frustration by breaking things and now any accident was viewed as a tantrum.
I grabbed a sponge and sprinkled abrasive cleaner vigorously into the sink. In time to the music
I swirled the sponge imagining the Von Trapp family in their floral prints.
“The Hills are Alive. . .” I stopped singing and thought for a moment.
Would dad be upset or was the weekly scowl on my mother’s face her way of manipulating me into
cleaning the bathroom. It was my own fault. Hiding was never easy for me. My arms and legs
needed to be moving. I squeezed the sponge and glanced out the second floor window longing to
climb the big oak tree. A slight tap on the door caught my attention.
“Honey.” My dad whispered. “Amanda. Come on out. Mom made apple pie.”
I swished the last suds down the drain then opened the door. My dad hugged me to him. As
smells of pie reached my nostrils I noticed the shredded newspaper in his hand. He smiled and
whispered in my ear. “I hated that vase.”
“Backbreaking work.” Leo said hauling another crate on to the ship.
John swung a box. “It’s not too bad. Anyway we’ll be leaving with the next tide.
Behind them voices were raised.
“Why can’t I take all my luggage?” Said the young man wearing a bowler hat.
“Well Sir. She seems a mighty ship . . .”
“Look here. I’m a banker.” He squared his shoulders. “An important banker I might add.”
“. . .yet” continued the sailor. “it cannot hold any more cargo.” He raised the flat of his hand for
emphasis and rubbed his long grey beard. “Nothing I can do. Rules is rules.” The sailor turned
and walked the gang plank leaving behind the bewildered banker.
“I’ll give this bag of coins to anyone who will get my luggage on the boat.” The banker raised his
arm dangling a coin purse from his fingers.”
“ ’Ow much d’you think’s in there John?”
“Dunno. Doesn’t matter does it? we’re full.”
Leo bit his lip. Maybe it’s enough so’s I can miss the next trip back here.”
“And you just might get tossed off the ship and left in Singapore.” John hoisted another trunk.
“Ever think of that Leo?”
Leo frowned. “It’d be my worst nightmare. You think it’s exciting traveling the world now but .
. .” He blinked and lowered his voice. “I’ve been doing this for nigh on 20 years.”
“You’d have less trouble if you lifted properly.” John rippled his biceps. “I learned a lot working
in the mines. Built up my strength I did.”
“You mark my words. In a few years you’ll hate it.” Leo shook his head “This is the worst port
I’ve ever been in.”
“Hate fresh air? Ever been down a mine have you Leo?”
Leo shook his head.
“They’re dark and damp and you can’t breathe for days when you get up top. Coal dust
settles in your lungs.” He tossed the box into the cargo hold. “That’s why I sleep on deck. I
can’t abide being in the dark. It would be my . . .”
“Any takers,” called the banker. The purse swung to and throw in the wind.
“Leo!” John called. “Leo come back.”
John stepped toward the gang plank watching his friend run toward the dangling purse.
“What’s going on here,” shouted the Captain as his eyes took in the scene. “You lazy old man.”
He pointed at Leo. “Don’t bother coming back on board, you’re done - you can rot in Singapore
for all I care. And you . . . ” he turned to John.
“. . . will spend the night in the hold.”
“. . . worst nightmare,” continued John.
More than Riches
Sunlight came through the blinds leaving lined shadows across the lemon colored hospital blanket.
Ethel’s wrinkled hand reached up and slapped the back of her husband’s head. He lightly tugged
the gray braid falling across her shoulder and resting on the faded hospital gown.
“It’s been a long journey hasn’t it, hon.?” He rubbed his rough and calloused finger along the
raised blue vein in her parchment-like hand.
“But a good journey,” she replied. “I told you we didn’t need no money to be happy.”
He smiled. No they hadn’t needed money. Until last week she had worn that old pink print
dress. The one with the hem that rested on top of her brown boots. Her tiny frame had wielded
sledge hammers, raked cow dung and cooked enough food to feed the whole church congregation.
Now her frame was shriveled, like a vacuum cleaner had pulled her skin inwards.
“It has hasn’t it?” she asked again.
“Yes, hon.,” he replied thinking of the feisty blond girl he had picked up on his way to
“You are a good man, Gabe,” she said leaning back on the plumped pillows. “I don’t know what I
would have done if you hadn’t given me a job.”
“You would have done fine but I’m sure glad you decided to stay on,” he smiled.
“How could a girl refuse a diamond ring?” she looked down at the loose gold band with a diamond
She sighed and closed her eyes as if trying to draw strength. With one last effort she reached up
again trying to reach his head, but fell back, a gasp leaving her mouth. Her fingers jerked against
the blanket and then she was still.
“No one will ever slap me like you did,” he said as he lightly tugged the gray braid and closed her
Charlottesville was cold this time of year. The white snow of yesterday was now slush. Slush
mingled with dirt and who knew what else. As dusk fell on the alley, warm foul-smelling steam
came from an outlet which would ward off the night chill. Noting a case of discarded and rotten
vegetables I huddled near the vent with my back against the wood.
The year had started well in a big house on the crescent but then there was the incident with
grandpa’s beard. He wasn’t my real grandpa you understand. Having been newly adopted, along
with new parents came a slew of extended family: A grandpa and aunts who spoke of pedigrees
and breeding and looked down at me. The siblings were the worst. They wreaked havoc, leaving
behind broken vases and spilled drinks. I gazed up with soulful brown eyes and emitted pitiful
whimpers but punishment came swiftly with a swat on the behind.
After the beard pulling incident, I wasn’t sent back to the establishment, but tossed out into the
street on a cold winter night.
Behind the crate, a door opened and Pablo came out carrying a half eaten burrito throwing it in my
direction. Munching on the burrito I waited. Once darkness fell on the alley it would be only
minutes before my love would appear. I could picture her now with her blond hair and long
eyelashes. We would stay together until dawn then like a bad nursery rhyme she would disappear to
a home where she was loved.
My coat was dirty and I tried to clean it as best I could, I smoothed back black hair and waited.
The night became darker with only a sliver of moon, but there was no sign of my beloved. All
through the night my mind went over what could have happened. Was there an accident, was she
I slept briefly until the sun rose and rested an eerie orange glow on the alley. I heard barking. She
was coming. I looked toward the street, waiting for a glimpse of blonde and there she was with her
head held high and a necklace of diamonds. She looked briefly my way and then her leash was
tugged. It was then I noticed she was not alone. Next to her was another Cocker Spaniel, a boy
with red hair trimmed neatly, his nose moist and his eyes bright. I looked down again at my black
and merle colored coat, dull and unkempt, I raised my paw to the space where a bright red collar
had once been and sighed. I looked up and she was gone – those fickle pedigrees.
Sailing through the letter box, a postcard fluttered to the ground. Andrea groaned - neck
muscles tightened. She grabbed the card and outlined the Eiffel Tower with her finger. Barely
reading the words she glanced at the familiar writing. Will be home on Saturday caught her eye.
On the hall table a stack of cards collapsed as she carelessly dropped the latest arrival on top.
Pictures of Rome, London, Barcelona and the Swiss Alps spilled to the floor.
“How long is it going to take that sister of mine to get through the inheritance?” Andrea gritted
her teeth as she pushed a suitcase closer to the front door.
Pain tugged her heart as she remembered Aunt Daphne’s sudden death. Gone was her mentor,
and favorite aunt. The pain grew stronger as she thought of the betrayal. Julie had always been
conniving, but Andrea dismissed demands for affection as insecurity. Somehow Julie had managed
to persuade their aunt to change her will and leave Andrea out completely. She could almost see
Julie counting the money as the lawyer went over each item and finally announced there was a
hundred thousand dollars in their aunt’s bank account.
Scooping up the postcards Andrea dropped them on the table and picked up a white envelope -
Pellini Tours engraved in the corner. She smiled. Her eyes closed as visions of Venice ran through
her mind. She imagined drifting on a gondola through shallow canals, listening to an orchestra in
San Marco Square, watching deft fingers moving thread into delicate lace on the island of Burano.
The letter box rattled. Opening her eyes, Andrea watched the Saturday newspaper slide part way
through the opening. She tugged the paper and stared at the headline. Local girl wins ten million
Andrea glanced in the mirror, patted her hair then looked back at the front page picture. She
straightened her back, stood tall and glanced again at her reflection. “That photographer definitely
got my best side.”
She hoped her sister’s newspaper delivery started again today.
Gone but not Forgotten
Staring at two miniature mounds in the London cemetery, Emily felt a lump form in her throat.
Her blue eyes glazed with unshed tears. The unmarked graves looked forlorn compared to the
surrounding plots with solid marble headstones. She gazed up at the canopy of trees, weak
November sun filtering through the branches.
“It’s as if they never existed,” she said out loud to no one in particular.
Trying to delay the endless flow of tear drops, she breathed in deeply. Emily could hardly believe it
was a year since her twin girls had died of diphtheria. She remembered vividly the smell of dried
lavender permeating the air. The strong smell from sachets did little to remove the horrendous
odors prevalent with the illness. God had taken her two beautiful girls. Even the excitement and
celebration of King George’s coronation last June did little to dispel the melancholy that
Despite her valiant efforts, Emily’s eyes welled and tear drops fell one by one down her pale cheeks
landing on her russet colored coat. Tugging at the high waisted garment, she tried to pull it around
her body in vain. It had grown tighter in the past month and the buttons and button holes would
not meet. Emily brushed a wisp of dark brown hair away from her face and knelt beside the small
mounds. Oblivious to the wet ground, she lovingly patted the dark, damp soil and brushed rotten
leaves away with her hand. The action released a pungent, raw smell.
As the wind blustered, she raised the velvet collar of her coat and pulled her hat down more securely
on her head. Yellow and orange autumn leaves were released from their branches and danced in
the wind as if chasing each other around the nearby weathered tombstones. The rustle of leaves
reminded Emily of another autumn day five years ago when she met Albert.
“Do you know where Sycamore Terrace is?” The tall man leaned his body over the weathered
garden fence. Peeking between branches of gold and orange maple leaves, he held the branch to
one side, his handsome face peering through the foliage.
Emily paused and turned toward the stranger, slowly dropping the wet sheet into a wicker laundry
basket and removing the wooden clothes pins from her mouth.
Albert’s smile grew more pronounced as he saw, even with a scowl on her face, how beautiful she
was. He looked down at her tiny feet encased in black buttoned boots. He glanced at Emily’s
small waist, the leg-of-mutton sleeves and gazed into brilliant blue eyes.
“Are you a maid here?” He asked surveying the lines of washed sheets.
“A Maid!” She glared up at him. “Heavens no! I’m the assistant cook.” She turned to
look at the washing in disgust. “The downstairs maid is sick today.” She sighed and glanced
down at red and chapped hands. Harsh soda crystals had removed the natural oil. Emily rubbed
them together briskly and blew warm breath into cupped fingers.
The man smiled and then glanced at her with a look of sympathy. His brown eyes glowed behind
round, wire-framed eyeglasses.
Emily sighed again. “Go up Oak Avenue and make a left. You’ll run into Sycamore Terrace; can’t
The back door of the Victorian house creaked and Emily’s eyes opened wide in alarm.
“I’ve got to go,” she said hastily and, running back to the wicker laundry basket, continued
hanging the white cotton sheets along the stretched rope. A cough caught her attention and she
looked up to see a tall, thin woman standing on the top of a concrete staircase. Spidery hands
placed squarely on the housekeeper’s hips signified her displeasure. A stiff, black taffeta dress
completed the ominous look. She glared first at the man and then at Emily. Walking sedately
down the steps she began to admonish Emily while occasionally looking in the man’s direction.
The wrinkles on her wizened face seemed to multiply as she spoke.
The man let go of the branch and adjusted his black bowler hat but continued watching the
assistant cook through the leaves. Strands of long, brunette hair had come loose from the bun
balanced on the top of her head. Gone was the taut, severe hairstyle of Queen Victoria’s reign and
the fuller less constricting style was not so easy to keep in place. The loosened stray hairs decorated
the back of her dress and fell across the straps of her white pinafore. I’ve got to see her again
thought Albert as he brushed a leaf from the sleeve of his tweed jacket and walked away.
How Emily wished she could live at home and work in the factory like her brothers. At sixteen
she had been sent from home to work for Mr. and Mrs. Townsend. They were what her mother
called a well-to-do family. Emily knew an assistant cook was a prized position but she missed her
family and the housework was physically hard. She glanced once again at her chapped hands.
Albert followed the directions and was reminded once again, as he walked along the street, how glad
he was to be working for the Cooper and Smythe accounting firm. This afternoon was a welcome
break from the piles of ledger books on his cluttered desk. He tucked the envelope under his arm
and continued along Oak Avenue occasionally gazing up at the tall oak trees like soldiers standing to
attention on either side of the street. Sunbeams shone through canopy. His surroundings seemed
brighter since he had met the young assistant cook.
Rounding the corner, Albert looked wistfully at the terraced houses. He was determined one day he
too would live in a house with all the modern conveniences of indoor plumbing and gas lighting.
Dropping off the package, he quickly walked back the way he had come, looking over the fence
once again and hoping for another glimpse of the young lady. All he could see were the white
sheets; wind whipping around them. Disappointed, he continued his walk back to the office
kicking the piles of leaves as he despondently slowed his pace.
“What’s wrong with you?” Cook asked as Emily peeled the bright orange carrots.
“What?” Emily looked up from the stained cutting board, her eyes glazed.
The cook shook her head. “Is this anything to do with that young man Miss Peters said she caught
you talking to?”
“He was just asking for directions, Mrs. Brown.” Emily said adamantly.
“Well, no good can come of it. I’ve seen that look before.” Mrs. Brown was staring at her.
Emily wasn’t quite sure what Mrs. Brown could know about such things. She had never been
married and was only given the title of Mrs. because she was the head cook. She looked toward the
fireplace. Glowing flames licked the wood and warmed the kitchen. The musty odor of logs
mingled with the smell of yeast and freshly baked bread. She remembered his smile; his kind eyes
and his face framed by the autumn foliage and regretted her brusque attitude.
Nodding toward Mrs. Brown, Emily looked back down at her task.
The next morning Emily braced herself against the bitter cold wind and raised her collar as she
walked up the steps leading from the basement. Pushing the shopping list deep into her pocket, she
lowered her head against the onslaught of blustery weather. She held her grey, wide-brimmed hat
with one hand. The wicker basket on her arm danced to and fro in the wind. With head bent, she
rounded a corner and came to an abrupt halt as she collided with someone. The jolt knocked the
empty basket out of her hand. As they both bent down to retrieve it, Emily raised her eyes and was
astonished to be looking into those same brown eyes framed by wire spectacles.
“We meet again,” he said. “My name’s Albert.”
He courteously held out his hand and gently held hers for a moment before releasing both her hand
and the basket.
“I’m Emily,” she said shyly.
“I hope you won’t think I’m forward. . .” Albert paused.
“. . . but, would you like to go to the park on Sunday? They usually have a brass band playing. We
could just stroll around the grounds if you like and stop at the café for a cup of tea.”
“I would love to.” Emily smiled, her face glowing. “We go to church with the family on Sunday
mornings but I have the afternoon off.”
Emily could hardly contain her happiness as she left Albert. She glanced back. He was still
watching her as she pulled out the list and walked into the grocer’s shop.
Sunday produced a crisp autumn day and Albert was waiting outside the house when they
returned from the church.
“I’ll be out in a minute,” Emily called as she ran down the basement steps and into the house to
change from her Sunday clothes.
That had seemed a lifetime ago thought Emily as she looked back at the forlorn graves and, with the
back of her gloved hand, wiped the tears from her eyes. The rattle of a cart broke the silence and
she frowned as she watched two men heaving it in her direction. One man waved to her. Puzzled,
she stepped away from the pathway allowing the cart to move past, but it stopped by the mounds of
“I think these go ‘ere,” the man said as he lowered the handles.
Emily watched in amazement as they began maneuvering the miniature stones. She looked
curiously at the two men. One of them stood and adjusted his tattered, flat cap leaving a chalky
mark on the brim.
“Some hoighty, toighty lady insisted we put these in today and has been yellin’ at us all mornin’,”
said one of the men as he glared at Emily.
“Who?” Emily frowned. “Surely this must be a mistake.”
“Mrs. Townsend,” a voice came from behind her.
She felt the familiar hand on her shoulder.
“I asked Mrs. Townsend if she could help,” Albert continued.
Through her tears she saw his familiar brown eyes. Albert hugged her tightly.
“It will get better luv,” he said tenderly as he gently eased her coat apart and patted her small
Emily looked back at the two white and grey granite headstones. The clouds parted and a sunbeam
reflected on the speckles like tiny diamonds scattered around the etching. Leaves from the maple
trees had fallen, forming a soft blanket on each grave. Two prominent head stones, each engraved
with the name of a child, stood behind the mounds of soil. Beneath each name was: “Died
November 23, 1910 - Beloved child of Albert and Emily Woods - Gone but not Forgotten.”
Emily sighed. Her anguish abated, her shoulders slumped. She looked at the petite angels perched
on top. She hugged Albert. How she loved this man. Only he knew how important it was for her
to have the names of their children written in stone before they left. Mrs. Townsend had done so
much for them and in the spring they would be boarding a ship and on their way to start new lives.
Mrs. Townsend’s brother in New York had hired Albert to handle the bookkeeping for his new
business and was anxious for him to start work. They had already received tickets for their voyage.
“One day we will be telling our grandchildren that we were on the maiden voyage of a magnificent
ship.” Emily said to Albert. “What was the name of it again?”
“How quickly you forget,” Albert said as he laughed. “It’s the Titanic. Luv.”
ALSO BY ANN SUMMERVILLE
A Graceful Death
(No. 1 in the Lowenna Series)
Giovanna Matthews has an acceptable life in London with her own flat, a good job, and recent
engagement to the son of a Scottish landowner. But not long after her engagement to Alan, news
of Aunt Grace’s death hits her like a red double decker bus. Ignoring his pleas to stay, she bundles
her dog and suitcase into a rusty Volkswagen and drives to her aunt’s cottage on the Cornish coast.
Although her intent is to take care of Aunt Grace’s affairs and leave the village quickly, she is
persuaded to join the local knitting circle and rekindles old friendships. Further complicating her
decision to leave Lowenna is her attraction to David, a childhood friend. Although the villagers are
closed mouthed about her aunt’s demise it soon becomes clear to Giovanna that not only is her
aunt’s death no accident but there is a family secret involving her missing cousin.
Review by Bonnie Pemberton, author of The Cat Master
Bring out the tea pot and butter a scone, you're in for a heck of a ride as the little Cornish town of
Lowenna gives up its secrets. British author, Ann Summerville writes with pacing, authenticity, and wit,
and A Graceful Death is a page turner you won't want to put down...not even for more marmalade.
(No. 2 in the Lowenna Series)
Giovanna Matthews settles happily into the English west country village of Lowenna, but a storm is
about to rock her world. Distressing the ladies from the knitting circle, a body drifts in with a high
tide. Unconvinced the death is an accident, Gia leaves no pebble unturned while sleuthing her way
around the village. Her delving further disrupts village life much to the distress of many villagers
who want every rock to stay firmly in place. Meanwhile, her boyfriend, David, has an unwelcome
visitor who threatens to unravel the bonds that tie him and Gia. Can Gia solve the mystery and
encourage the visitor to leave before her anchor in the village is uprooted and she too is cast out to
Review by Mason Canyon - http://masoncanyon.blogspot.com
Author Ann Summerville has created a village of unique and lovable characters. Her vivid descriptions of
the area will have you hearing the waves lap against the rocks and almost feel the cool ocean breeze on
As Gia searches for clues she will encounter a mix of suspects and victims. You'll find yourself laughing
one minute and holding your breath the next. HIGH TIDE is the second installment in the Lowenna
Series, but is a stand alone book. The residents of this quaint little village will warm your heart while
keeping you guessing was Joe murdered or not.
Storms & Secrets
In search of her husband, Heather reluctantly travels from London to his Texas home town where
she is vocal about her dislike of snakes, spiders, and cowboys. She vows to spend no more than
two weeks away from her city apartment but finds a slew of secrets swirling like a Texas tornado.
While her husband keeps his emotional distance, and she tries to maintain her British reserve,
Heather is nevertheless intrigued by the friendliness of Fort Worth locals. Despite developing
friendships, Heather struggles to find out what illness her mother-in-law is suffering from, how a
neighbor fits into her husband’s past and why a vagrant sits across the street each day staring at the
house. One by one, Heather uncovers the mysteries surrounding her husband’s family. Can her
marriage be saved, and will her new Texas friends entice Heather to share their love for the Lone
Review by Joanne Faries – Author - Chicken Soup for the Soul – NASCAR, Freckles to Wrinkles
It's a quiet neighborhood, but troubles lurk behind the heavy drapes in a modest Texas home. Heather,
newly arrived from England, wants to solve the mysteries behind her husband's furtive actions, her
mother-in-law's illness, and other odd characters she encounters in the area. Ann Summerville's second
book demonstrates that her first "A Graceful Death", was no fluke. She is a skilled writer - excellent
pacing, well drawn characters, delightful settings, and a charming sense of humor keep the pages
turning. Enjoy the stormy secrets!
Ann Summerville was born in England, and in search of a warmer climate, moved to California
before settling in Texas. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published in the Lutheran
Digest, Long Story Short, The Shine Journal, Doorknobs & Bodypaint, Associated Content, Trinity
Writer’s Workshop newsletters and also their collection of Christmas stories. A member of Trinity
Writer’s Workshop Ann is currently working on a cozy mystery set in a small Texas town. Ann
resides in Fort Worth with her son, two boisterous dogs and a somewhat elusive cat.