‘Dear Madame’ Chapter 3

Sorry to have been gone for a while. It’s a long story and one I’ll likely share later, but today I’m back with another chapter of ‘Dear Madame’ for you. If you’ve forgotten what happened in the first two chapters, read here and here for chapters 1 and 2 before reading chapter 3 below. Let me know what you think if you feel like sharing and please feel free to pass it on to friends.

Patricia hardly knew what to think about the letter she’d just read. Could there really be a connection between a box of old letters her mother had here in the US and a French one found hidden in chair in England. She’d never heard her mother mention any letters, but clearly she had talked to someone. Well, maybe she hadn’t actually talked to anyone, but glancing from the photocopy she held in her left hand back to the letter she’d just read in her right, it looked as if her mother had certainly made contact with at least one man.

Leaving everything behind but the two letters, Patricia got up from the floor and moved to her study searching the letter for the man’s name as she walked down the hall. She walked quickly past the bathroom even though she’d been dying to go in the few minutes before she came through the front door. She couldn’t decide whether traffic in this city was helping her bladder or hurting it and often joked with her girlfriends that she’d be packing adult diapers in her sample case if they didn’t soon finish the never-ending road work that slowed her commute each day.

Easing into an oversized office chair, she sat down at the desk she had rescued after her parent’s divorce. It was one of those big partners desks for two and she’d grown up hearing them battle each other across it like the courtroom warriors they both wished to be. Unlike the news-making litigators that had inspired their law school dreams, neither had ever tried cases even though they’d argued for years as passionately as if they were before the Supreme Court justices instead of facing each other in the home office of the house where she’d grown up.

They hadn’t separated until Patricia had moved into her dorm at the university and she was glad she hadn’t been there for the final battles over the house and other stuff. She had grown weary of their daily dramas long before they seemed to tire of each other and the idea of separate houses for the holidays made going home more inviting even if home was a place she no longer recognized.

She’d learned early it wasn’t stuff that made a place a home and except for a few things like the desk neither parent had wanted, she tended to travel light during the years before she’d bought her condo.

Leaning forward, Patricia felt the edge of the desk push against her breastbone as she reached around the back of her iMac to find the on switch. She flipped it on with the practiced feel of someone who never left her computer on when she was away during the day. She’d owned it so long it wasn’t good for much more than research or email and she pushed a couple of stacks of paper out of her way readjusting what her Uncle Ed used to call her horizontal filing system. Patricia knew it affected her efficiency to always have to search for things as she did, but she was too tired at the end of the day to decide what to toss and she tended to hold on to more than she should.

While her computer booted up, she reread the letter pulling out the important information. She wondered how her mother had found this man, Trenton Molesworth, and checked her spelling as she typed his name into Google and added Bonhams as an after thought.

Bonhams sounded vaguely familiar to her and she realized why when she pressed the return key on her computer and saw the website come up. While she had remembered that Bonhams was an auction house of some sort, she hadn’t known how many locations there were worldwide and the range of items they offered for sale.

She expected to see Trenton Molesworth listed as someone who provided auction valuations and was surprised when his name came up as the editor of Bonhams Magazine. Patricia clicked on the link that opened into a recent article written by him where he was talking about the 200-year-old love letter and it’s possible significance to a historical event. He went on to say that it was a shame that there was only this one letter as he needed more evidence to support his theory. Ho Ho, she thought, don’t we all wish we had a little more than we do.

Saving the link to the Bonhams article by Molesworth, she quickly googled the words, 200-year-old-love letter and found a translation on the BBC news site.

‘ My dear small love, do not be worried, do you seriously believe I would tell anything to these people, who don’t understand anything about love?

If someone insists that I say something, it will be anything but the dear love acquired by you, which is the great treasure hidden in my heart.

I didn’t tell you to come yesterday because I didn’t have the opportunity, but do come every Tuesday around 5:30, and Fridays as well; I count/hope on you tomorrow.

At the moment I write this letter, I can hear my aunt yelling, who else annoys us all day long, today and tomorrow.

My dear, I cover you with kisses and caresses until… I need you in this moment of desire. I love you.’ *

Patricia read the translation several times and went back through the BBC reporter’s version of the story noting how the letter was discovered and by whom. Afterwards she thought it was certainly sweet, but could not see what made Molesworth think there was more here than just a few tender words between lovers.

Resting her eyes as she thought about what to do next, she brushed back a bit of strawberry blond hair that never seemed to stay put and picked up the photocopy of the letter from her mother that the Trenton fellow had mailed back with his note of interest. As she scanned the letter written in French, she noticed there were notes in the margins and parts of it were circled and highlighted.

It looked as if her mother’s photocopy had brought out the editor in Trenton Molesworth and she caught a word in English that made her look a bit closer at the notes he had scribbled along the edge of the page. Taking a breath, she held it without realizing as she thought about what he was suggesting … did he really believe that something like that might be possible …

* Love letter translation taken from BBC online story about a found 200-year-old Love Letter.

Tree Climbing At Fifty & More From The American South

How ya’ll doing? Oops, look at that … here I am home less than a week and I am slipping back into my Georgia roots. John always teases me about how quickly I go back to sounding like a southern girl, (not that there’s anything wrong with it) when I’ve been on the phone with someone from home.

It’s most obvious after a chat with my stepmom Cullene, who hails from Alabama. My friends in the UK almost always try out their version of ‘ya’ll’ if they hear me use it in conversation which I tolerate with southern manners that would make my father proud.

I meant to post long before now having left you last Friday with the hopeful promise of another chapter of ‘ Dear Madame.’ I don’t know what I was thinking making a promise like that knowing what I had waiting for me at home. Let me show you what I’ve been doing instead of writing.

Working On My House

Fence Painting

If you haven’t painted a picket fence you are missing an experience. Actually, I wish I’d missed it too. After I debated about the merit of buying a power sprayer to paint it, I pulled out my paint roller and brushes and did it the old-fashioned way. Where is Tom Sawyer when you need him?

It may look like a small bit of fence, but after painting both sides it did not feel so small. Also, see the tree at the corner … that what I use when I’m climbing on the roof to knock the leaves off twice a year. I actually have a ladder, but prefer to climb the tree to get on the roof.

John didn’t want me to do it when he was with me at Christmas and even though I’ve done it for over ten years, I didn’t do it then as I did not want to worry him. When I went up this time, I had someone snap a few photos of my technique to share. I always like to have someone around to dial 911 should I fall in the process. So far my rock climbing skills have helped me get up every time.

Tree Climbing

Elizabeth Harper-Tree Climbing To Clean The Roof (Photo by C Taylor)

I like to go up barefoot as I feel more secure on the roof without shoes. The tree is a bit scratchy on bare feet, but I do it anyway.

Elizabeth Harper-Tree Climbing, Almost On The Roof (Photo by C Taylor)

This photo is so not pretty, but I’m sharing it so you can see how I made it to roof level.

Porch Painting

After I cleaned the roof, I took everything off the porch and painted the porch green including the trim on the columns. The tree I climbed in the photos above is behind the lattice screen at the far end.

Tree & Shrub Cutting

Once I had completed painting the fence and the porch, I trimmed the bushes and the trees and raked and bagged everything along with tying up some sticks for pickup.

Leaf Raking & Bagging

I moved on to work in the backyard raking and weeding and repainted the white garage doors and trim too. (You can’t see it in this photo)

Furniture Painting

While I was painting the garage doors, I gave my shabby chic porch furniture a bit a of paint, but not too much or else it wouldn’t look slightly shabby. I did some other things such as bagging some rubbish and leaves that were not mine, but I could see from the porch under the window of the green house next door.

Detective Work

I got a phone number from someone next door in order to call and complain about their yard man turning such a public space into a compost pile. The rubbish was mixed in with the leaves and revealed beer cans, a glass bottle, a couple of plastic cups, one metal fork and some plastic bags, none of which will degrade in my lifetime.

A few more small jobs and I was finished with my housework and on my way back to Cullene’s house. I was thrilled to accomplish so much and amazed how quickly I got it all done, but looking at my photos now, I regret not taking a moment to enjoy the porch swing.

Promise Making

Tomorrow’s Friday and you know what that means … I’m talking about the next chapter of ‘Dear Madame,’ not the royal wedding although I’ll be watching. Will you?

In The Air With ‘Dear Madame’

By the time many of you read this, I’ll be at the London airport traveling on a day I hadn’t realized was Good Friday when I booked the tickets last year. Some say that next to the American Thanksgiving, this Christian holiday is right up there with packed airports and wigged out travelers. I hope I won’t be one of them.

I’m off to the US this morning where I’ll be for about four weeks. I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and friends and getting a few things done that require more muscle than the fork to mouth routine that always takes center stage when reuniting with people you love. People back home have no idea how good words like barbeque and fried chicken tacos sound to a Georgia girl living so far away from such tasty treats.

While I’m in the air, I’ll be working the next Chapter of ‘Dear Madame’ and should have it live for you later this evening. Talk about waiting until the last minute … I thought I’d have it done before leaving for London yesterday, but I was still packing yesterday morning even with planning ahead and my writing got pushed aside.

Send me some good thoughts today to speed me home safely and I’ll reconnect with you when I’m back in Atlanta.

200-Year-Old Love Letter Inspires Online Serial Novel

Graham Simpson (Internet Photo-Gloucestershire News)

Ideas can come from many places when I’m writing. Often it’s a product of my desire to know the rest of a news story and if there isn’t one available, my mind will certainly fill in the missing pieces. Such is the case with the serial novel I’m writing and posting on Gifts Of The Journey. If you missed the first two chapters, you can catch up by clicking here and here.

I’ll be writing a new ‘chapter ‘ each week, none of which will be too long to read in a few minutes online so don’t let the word chapter put you off. Even though I am having a good time with it and can see that some of you are too, I would love to see how much of an audience we can build together.

With that in mind, I’m hoping you will take a few minutes to send it friends, blog about it yourself, or post a link on your social networking sites especially as we are only two chapters in and it’s still easy to catch up.

I may not be Charles Dickens, (‘King’of the serial novel) but I do have an intriguing tale evolving in my head that I think you and possibly your friends will enjoy. Rest assured, I’m writing a chapter a week so it could go off in directions that haven’t occurred to me yet and every chapter is a bit of a surprise to me as well.

One thing I found about writing in this style is that once you put it out there, you can’t go back and change an event if you change your mind. You have to find a way to write your way out if you get stuck in the history of what you’ve written. It’s already happened to me a time or two and I’ve decided that I am loving the challenge this involves.

Background

Some of you may have noticed a similarity in ‘ Dear Madame’ to a recent news story and I want to share a bit of the details so you have an idea as to why some aspects of my story may seem familiar.

Earlier this year, an upholsterer in a shop in Tewkesbury, England found a 200-year-old love letter stuffed deep in an armchair purchased in France. After posting the letter on Facebook to have help in translating it, the romantic missive created a bit of media attention here in the UK when the BBC picked up the story. No one knows more than what is written in the letter and like many others, I wondered what the rest of the story might be.

Not long ago, I wrote a post challenging my readers to leave a comment so I might use one to write a mini short story. I found myself stopping at a point when there was still a story to be told although the story direction had not yet revealed itself to me.

Some of my readers seemed to enjoy it as much as I did and wished to hear more of the ‘Dear Madame ‘ storyline and it was while writing the next chapter that the idea came to me and the story of the two lovers and lost letter began to take shape.

Of course, the love letter is not the whole of the story, but only one part that will reveal itself as the story progresses. I hope you come back and see where it goes each week and thanks for sharing it with others in your world.

‘Dear Madame’ Chapter 2

Welcome to the next installment of ‘Dear Madame.’ If you haven’t read the first chapter, you may want have a look here, so Chapter 2 will make more sense. Thanks for your interest and please feel free to forward it on to friends and family who might enjoy the developing story line and if you use Twitter or Facebook, you can easily pass it on through the links to both when you click on comment. I’ll have Chapter 3 ready on Friday so don’t forget to come back and see what Patricia does next. 

Chapter 2

Patricia shifted slightly to dislodge a box of protein bars that had wedged under her left hip when she fell, but she made no move to get up from the nest of groceries and mail scattered on the floor. As she scanned the letter she held in her right hand, an expression more smirk than smile played at the corners of her mouth looking like a bit like a facial twitch instead of the beginnings of a true smile.

Aging had a way of doing that to you; taking a perfectly cute habit and turning it into something that looked as if you might need an ongoing Botox regimen to keep it from becoming a bigger issue later on.

A quick look at the letter carried her past the puzzling formality of the words,‘Dear Madame,’ but not before wondering who could be sending her mother mail of this sort. She half expected to see a request for her mother’s banking details and the offer to split someone’s unclaimed riches by the Lord High ruler of a fictitious country and was surprised by what followed next.

‘My dear Mrs. Reynolds, I hope you will forgive the play on words with my ‘Dear Madame’ greeting especially in light of the French subject matter of our correspondence. I was so excited to receive your letter that even now, I can hardly control my school boyish enthusiasm.

Never could I have imagined that there might be more letters connected to the one discovered in Tewkesbury earlier this year, but from first appearances it does seem as there is more of a story waiting to be told. I cannot be completely certain without a proper translation and authentication, but the copy of the letter you sent me does appear to have been written by the author of the 200-year-old love letter found by the upholsterer a few months ago, who has been making headlines around the world since.

Its popularity comes as no surprise to me as it seems the world in general is starved for news that has love at the center of its story versus the predominantly bad updates on foreign conflicts and collapsing financial markets.

There is so much we need to talk about Mrs Reynolds, and I am anxious to learn more about how this ‘box’ of letters you describe came to be in your possession. May I recommend that you fly to London with the letters in hand so we might continue our conversation over a cup of tea and a bite of lunch.

With your permission, I would also like to have someone there to review the letters while we discuss what to do next. Of course, I am happy to cover all the expenses related to your journey and look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

I would also like to apologize for the tardiness of my response to your enquiry. Without going into the details of my staffing woes, I hope you will accept my assurances that all future correspondence will be at lightening speed.

Not using the internet is certainly understandable and if letter writing works best for you, I will do all I can to accommodate. It does seem more fitting in a way that we use pen and paper when discussing the possible future of your box of letters and the story I hope they will reveal.

May I ask if we could speak on the phone regarding your travel arrangements and decide how soon I might persuade you to fly. If a trip to London is out of the question, perhaps you will allow me to meet with you somewhere closer to your home. My phone numbers are listed below and I am available anytime you wish to call. We are five hours ahead of you, but please call when it suits you best.’

Patricia realized her jaw had dropped and her mouth was hanging wide open right about the time she was finishing the letter. She checked the date on the envelope and tried to work backwards to see when her mother could have mailed a letter to London and wondered how she had even found this man?

She couldn’t imagine what box of letters he was referring to and she had only the vaguest memory of hearing some talk of an old love letter that had been found in a chair somewhere in England.

What had her mother been up to before she died, Patricia thought, as she considered what to do next.

Working On “Dear Madame”

Elizabeth Harper - Outside London Apple Store (photo by sister Margaret)

After taking a poll last week to determine which day most of my readers would like to read more of Dear Madame, I decided to go with Friday. It was suggested most often as the best day to read a serial novel installment and it was my first choice too. I’m working on Chapter 2 now and will have it up later today. If you haven’t read the first chapter, you may want have a look here, so this next one makes sense.

Update: Sorry to miss my deadline, but I’ve had some issues that have kept me from my desk much of today leaving the installment unfinished. Look for the update on Sunday and I promise to deliver. 

Too Much Computer Time … What I Say When People Start To Talk

Back in 2003, a pen and notebook were the tools I used to record my stories and thoughts. Blogs didn’t exist for me and my personal computer was used mostly for photos and email. I had a laptop for my pharma sales work life, but any creative writing I managed to fit into an overstuffed schedule went into a notebook like the one you see on the table.

I never could have imagined I would be able to compose at the keyboard. Typing was always a chore for me and even though I’d struggled through a typing class in high school, I’d never been successful at memorizing the keyboard and I couldn’t seem to use more than a couple of fingers when completing reports or sending emails.

These days, I spend loads of time writing and my computer is never far from me for long. Blogging and writing comes up in conversation a fair amount of the time and I should not have been surprised when a friend in the village quoted some statics she’d heard about the disproportionate amount of time some people spend on their computer as compared to time with their partner.

She looked dead at me after sharing this with a table of people in the pub and said, ” I thought of you when I heard that.” I considered what she said for a moment and said, ” I do spend a huge amount of time at my keyboard, but I treat it as my job. ” I may not be paid for my writing yet, but I will be and everything I do now is with that in mind. So you’re right, I probably do at least on most days, spend 60 percent of my time at my computer, but it’s my work, paid or not it’s my job and this job actually gives me more time to spend with John than if I left the house everyday for the kind of work I’ve done in the past.”

I was writing this post earlier today when John came in to my studio space and said that he was thinking about going over to Lanhydrock for a walk around the gardens since the weather was so sunny and warm. I was writing away and he said, ” You probably don’t want to go do you? ” He knows I can be very disciplined when I’m working and sometimes I do decline a day trip even when the weather is a stunning as it was today.

Although I was right in the middle of this post and another installment of ” Dear Madame, ” I said, ” No, I want to go. ” Thirty minutes later we were out the door and not long after, we were strolling around the grounds snapping photos of spring. Working for yourself means you get to change your hours if you want and I’m glad I did, but I have things to finish before this day is done (word count) so I’m back at the computer even though it’s almost 7:00 and John’s at the pub with friends.

I’m leaving you with a look at our afternoon, but I have a question for you too.

What I need from you

I’m pretty excited about how the next post for ” Dear Madame ” is looking as well as my notes for future installments. What I need from you is … which day of the week is the best day for you to spend a few minutes indulging in a serial novel because that’s what this looks like it’s going to be? Let me know in a comment and I’ll do my best to comply with the general consensus.