Tuesday, October 10, 2006
OCT EXCERPT: Leigh
By Lyn Cote
By Lyn Cote
The women of Ivy Manor—four generations of women who forged a dynasty amid the tapestry of the twentieth century . . .
Linda Leigh Sinclair is born in the aftermath of WW II. Raised near Ivy Manor, enveloped in the love of her family, Leigh has everything she could possibly need—but not everything she wants. Her overwhelming need for freedom for herself and for others leads her into the modern civil rights movement.
At eighteen, Leigh watches the powers that be collide with the radical causes of the 1960's. Choosing the dangerous path of a journalist, Leigh witnesses and writes about the protests and riots against segregation and the war in Vietnam. While caught up in the winds of change, she falls in love. Joy turns to pain when Leigh discovers that some men lie.
To survive, Leigh must mature quickly and call on God’s forgiveness and power.
Will she become the strong and capable woman
her child—and the world—needs?
New York City, November 1983
Through two horrific days and one long night, Leigh Sinclair had held it together. Until an hour after she hugged her little girl and watched a doctor give the child a sedative at the hospital, and finally, thankfully brought her here—home to her own bed. Then Leigh had flown apart.
All her self-control dissolved in an instant and she'd started shaking and couldn't stop. Nate had led her from her sleeping child into the dark living room. He'd nudged her down onto her sofa. Murmuring, he'd sat down and laid her head in his lap. And slowly the trembling had ebbed.
Just a few weeks ago, Leigh had only known Nate Gallagher, NYPD detective, professionally. He'd made it clear she interested him, but she'd kept him at arm's length as she did every other man. Then she'd needed him and he'd come through for her. Now he stroked her long hair with steady hands, giving her wordless comfort.
"It's all my fault," the words flowed out of Leigh's mouth a second time. Through the crisis, she'd fought voicing this admission, knowing it wouldn't help, knowing that guilt was natural and unavoidable; yet all the while--fearful that someone else, everyone else would point accusing fingers at her.
Nate said nothing in reply, just continued stroking her hair. In her weakness, she felt the latent strength in his large rough hands.
"I've always carried so much guilt about Carly," she whispered. "Not just now. But always." And I always will.
Little Carly's face glowed in Leigh's mind. Grandma Chloe always said that Leigh's little girl got her looks from Leigh's grandfather who'd died in World War I. That was because Grandma Chloe had never seen Carly's father. Carly was the image of her own father with his fair skin, black hair and gray eyes. But Carly had never seen her father either.
This fact never stopped gnawing Leigh and somehow it had created an invisible barrier between Leigh and Carly. Her daughter's sober little face, her silent little mouth, those somber eyes that hid every thought haunted Leigh.
"Everything will be okay," Nate said at last.
She gazed up at him, his face in shadow, but the moonlight illuminating the warmth of his auburn hair. She couldn't form words, her mouth paralyzed.
I've stood apart from my daughter since she was born. Secrets separate us. Secrets I can't divulge. Will I never break through to her, connect with her heart-to-heart?
Maryland, August 24, 1963
"I know why you're doing this," Leigh muttered, beside her mother Bette in their Chevy Impala. Leigh kept her voice low, not wanting to upset her five-year-old sister, Dory, who sat in the backseat with a coloring book. "You think if you get me out of D. C. that I won't be able to get to Dr. King's March."
Her mother made no reply.
Leigh snapped on the radio, knowing it would annoy her mother. The car radio between them vibrated with the top of the chart song, "Heat Wave," the words hushed by the hot wind rushing through the wide open windows.
Still her mother made no response. "I don't know why you have to act like this," Leigh muttered louder.
"This is not open for discussion," Bette said. "You have no idea what may happen this Wednesday. Have you forgotten mobs in Alabama clubbing Freedom Riders with baseball bats? I haven't."
"This isn't Alabama," Leigh snapped. "And Mr. Pitney, the advisor to the school paper, doesn't think there'll be any violence."
"Mr. Pitney is very young and should show better sense, Linda Leigh," Bette answered back fierce but low.
"Don't call me that name. I hate it." Hate you. "I go by Leigh now."
Bette gave a sound of irritation. "Linda Leigh is a perfectly good name. You'll spend the last week before school starts at your grandmother's. And tomorrow, I'm going to call the school and tell the principal what I think of a teacher urging his students—my daughter—into harm's way."
"I will get back to Washington if I have to hitchhike there." Leigh stared straight ahead.
"Why can't I make you see sense? The march will be dangerous."
Martha and the Vandellas sang out husky and loud, "Heat Wave!" The raucous song evidently finally got to Mother. She snapped off the radio. "Why are we listening to that trash?"
"It's not trash, Mother. It's rock and roll."
Looking out the window at the lush green tobacco fields rolling by, Leigh realized they were almost there, almost to Ivy Manor. She folded her bare arms on the open window and set her chin on them, frustration roiling inside her.
"There it is," Dory piped up from the backseat, sounding the usual joy of coming to grandmother's house. "There's Ivy Manor!"
Leigh felt a lift in spite of her frustration with her mother. Her mother drove up the lane to the large house with white pillars and green ivy. "Maybe Grandmother can make you see sense."
"No one--not even Grandma Chloe--is going to change my mind," Leigh kept her voice low as her little sister climbed out of the backseat.
Mother ignored her, as usual. Now that they'd stopped and the wind no longer evaporated their perspiration, the humid heat wrapped around Leigh, smothering her. Her insides still churning at highway speed, she got out and slammed the car door, eliciting a world-weary sigh from her mother.
Of course, even going to the country her oh-so-proper mother wore a stylish red sundress and under a chiffon scarf, her bouffant style had every hair in place. In contrast, Leigh and Dory had dressed sensibly in one of their matching outfits that Dory loved so--blue shorts and white sleeveless blouses with blue collars.
Her mother scolded her with another look for slamming the door.
Leigh felt like going back and slamming it again. But she couldn't give in to childish anger. Instead, her pony tail swishing against her shoulders, she ran ahead, overtaking her sister, calling for her grandmother. Then Leigh heard the voice she loved best, summoning them to the shaded and screened summer house on the back lawn.
With Dory right at her heels, Leigh whipped inside the summer house and went straight into Grandma Chloe's arms. Dory was right beside her and they hugged Chloe together. Chloe wasn't overweight like other grandmothers and she didn't rinse her gray hair blue or tease it like other grandmothers did. And she always smelled subtly of roses. The fragrance enveloped Leigh, giving her a sudden feeling of ease. Grandma Chloe would set everything right.
"Leigh, Dory, how wonderful to see you." Chloe kissed their foreheads and cheeks before releasing them. She rose then and reached for their mother. The two older women hugged. "Bette, honey, of course I'm happy to see you but what's come up so suddenly?" Dressed in a cool sleeveless lavender print sundress, Chloe eased back onto the wicker rocker. Dory took her usual place, perching on one of its wide curved arms.
With another sigh, Bette sat down on a white Adirondack chair. "I hope you can put up with these two girls for the rest of the week."
"No!" Leigh fired up. Last Friday, the returning staff from last year's Scribe had gathered to get organized so their first issue would coincide with the first week of high school, just days away. "Grandma, Mr. Pitney, my journalism teacher, said that the one of us who writes the best first person account of the March on Washington will be the new editor of the Scribe this year."
"You're safety is more important than an article in a school paper," Bette snapped.
"Grandma, she's treating me like a baby again." Leigh pictured Mr. Pitney's face in her mind. He'd said the newspaper staff could call him Lance when they were working on the school paper. Mr. Pitney looked like a Lance, tall, young with golden hair and a cool mustache. "I'm old enough to go to a public place alone. I've been to Lincoln's Memorial a zillion times."
"Mother," Bette raised her voice, "would you please talk some sense into this girl's head? President Kennedy tried to persuade Martin Luther King, Jr. to cancel—"
"Nothing's going to happen!" Leigh's hands tightened into fists. A faint breeze stirred in the heavy air. Mother never took her seriously. Lance did. He didn't treat her like she was just another teenager. "It's going to be a peaceful demonstration. Dr. King believes in non-violent protest—"
"Well, the KKK doesn't," Bette declared flatly. "The police in Washington and surrounding counties in Virginia have had all leaves cancelled. The Justice Department and the army are practicing riot control—"
"Stop it," Leigh snapped, imagining the appreciative look on Lance's face when he read her account of the March.
"Nothing's going to happen."
Dory hid her face against Chloe's slender shoulder.
"Sorry, Ladybug," Leigh apologized to her little sister.
"Don't speak disrespectfully to your mother, Leigh," Chloe scolded gently, rocking while patting Dory's head.
Leigh flushed, feeling the warmth suffuse her face and neck. "Sorry." Her little sister looked distressed, but their mother had involved her in this. Leigh hadn't.
"The KKK will not let this go by without reacting," Bette continued. "They gunned Medgar Evers down on his own front porch just two months ago. What if one of them decides to shoot Dr. King right in the middle of the march? It would be chaos. Leigh could be trampled--"
"This is Washington D. C., not Mississippi." Leigh felt her frayed temper about to break. She'd died if Mary Beth Hunninger got the editor's job. Mary Beth was "the girl" on Campus at St. Agnes' Girls Academy—runner on the track team, National Honor Society president last year and now she wanted to horn in on the Scribe.
"Why does everybody got to be so mad?" Dory's small voice asked. "Make them stop fighting, Grandma." Again, Dory buried her face in their grandmother's shoulder.
"I'll do what I can, Ladybug." Chloe smoothed back Dory's dark bangs and then tightened the little girl's pony tail. "Now, if I have this correct, Bette, you want me to keep your girls here at Ivy Manor this last week before school starts so that they will be out of Washington for Dr. King's March, right? And Leigh, you want to go to the March and write an article about it for school?"
Leigh stood in the center of the screened octagonal roam, tension zinging through her.
Chloe sighed. "I hate being put into the middle like this, Bette."
Leigh stood her ground. Surely Grandma Chloe wouldn't side with her mother. She couldn't.
Bette rubbed her forehead. "I know but for some reason whatever I say my daughter must always do the opposite."
That wasn't true. Leigh folded her arms in front of herself and glared at her mother.
"What does Ted say?" Chloe asked.
Bette humphed. "He says he won't get into it."
Chloe nodded and continued to stroke Dory's hair. "Well, only because you asked me, I'll tell you what I think. You're both right. Dr. King plans this to be a non-violent protest. But there's always a possibility of violence whenever any very large group of people get together."
Bette nodded and murmured a satisfied, "I know."
Leigh frowned at her grandmother.
"They're preparing for at least one hundred thousand," Bette declared. "Apart from the KKK barging in with baseball bats, just a crowd of that size—anything could happen to Leigh."
Sensing defeat, Leigh flung herself down into a wicker chair with a sound of disgust.
"Why is reporting on this march so important to you, Leigh?" Chloe asked.
Leigh frowned. That was easy. She couldn't bear to think of having to take direction from Mary Beth, her rival ever since Leigh had started at St. Agnes in ninth grade. "Grandma, I've worked hard on the Scribe the last two years. I can't let…someone else get the editor job." I'm going no matter what you say or do, Mother.
"Your mother's fears about possible violence aren't exaggerated." Chloe rocked back and forth gently. She picked up one of Dory's braids and tickled the little girl's nose with its end, making her smile. "Even Dr. King is afraid that they may be met with resistance from white supremacists."
Leigh looked down at her lap, fisting her hands. No. No.
Bette sat up, looking relieved. "So you'll keep Dory and Leigh for me for the rest of the week?"
Leigh could defy her mother, but not her grandmother. She recognized this, but couldn't explain it. She blinked back frustrated tears. Defeat tasted bitter. This can't be happening.
"Bette, while I agree to some extent with what you've said," Chloe continued, "I can't do what you want me to."
Leigh's head snapped up to see her grandmother's face.
Bette leaned forward. "Why not?"
Chloe met their eyes. "Because I'm going to attend the March myself."
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