Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Entry #1 Unique Character/Setting: Lady of the Light

Lady of the Light
by Jean Kinsey


Belle climbed the ladder she’d found leaning in the aisle, reached up with her right hand and braced herself. Dear God, Don't let Papa choose this moment to walk in the drugstore and catch me with my skirts hiked almost to my knees, she prayed, stretching high above her head for the Hostetter’s Bitters.

“Excuse me. Miss, did you drop your handkerchief?”

Surprised by the deep voice, Belle clung with both hands to the upper-most shelf, and looked down from the top rung of the ladder in the center of Marley Apothecary. Staring up at her, a young man with hair the same color as the sand behind the lighthouse stooped to retrieve a white linen square from the floor.

Belle spun around, causing the ladder to wobble and scoot. Her feet flailed in all directions as she held onto the shelf with her fingertips, dangled a few seconds, then dropped into the arms of the young gentleman. He stumbled, one foot sliding to the right, the other slipping backwards. She flung her arms, knocked a half dozen bottles, tins and jars off the shelves, as she wriggled out of his arms, trying to gain composure of her own two feet.

Slinging her hair off her face, she struggled to maintain an upright position. “No. I didn’t drop anything. It’s not mine.” She straightened her skirt and ducked her head, hiding her flaming cheeks, then squatted to pick up the rubble.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He knelt to help her pick up bottles of Castor Oil.

Belle found herself gazing into the greenest eyes she’d ever seen. Green as emeralds, she thought, even though she’d never seen a real emerald in all her seventeen-and-a-half-years. She tingled where his hands had held her waist to keep her from falling. Desperately thinking of something to say, she rubbed the nape of her neck, mussing the turned-up semi-circle of hair that framed her high cheekbones. Yet, she couldn't think of a thing. All she could think of was how handsome he was, but she dared not say that.

“I-I’m only here for my papa. Getting him these Bitters, I mean.” Suddenly a string of silly words just popped out of her mouth and she held up a bottle of Hostetters Bitters. “I couldn’t find anyone to help me and I saw the ladder…”

“Bitters huh?” If he thought her words were silly, he didn't show it. "My father swigs on the Bitters, too. Say, do I know you? You look familiar. I can’t believe you would live in the Cove without me knowing you. I thought I knew everybody.”

Belle felt the blood rushing to her cheeks again as she recognized the man in whose arms she had landed. “Well, I’m not sure if you know me, but I know you, Lawrence Rinehart.” She was glad he couldn’t see her knees wobbling beneath her hobble skirt. He had changed from a young boy to a young man, but the eyes remained unchanged. “We both went to Marley Cove Grade School.”

“We did? I wonder why I don’t remember.” The man folded the handkerchief and put it in his pocket.

“I suppose it’s because we didn’t exactly have the same circle of friends. Your kind didn’t hang around with the poorer kids in school.”

“Oh!” Lawrence placed his hands over his chest as if to protect himself from the pain. “My kind?” He arched his eyebrows and dipped his chin. “You make me sound like such a snob.”

Belle forced herself to stop staring into his mesmerizing eyes. “Anyway, you went away to school by the time I was fifteen.”

“There! That’s it. I’m sure it was the age difference and not the social difference that separated us.” An elfish smile played across his face. “Never the matter, I’m back now, and I think I remember you. I remember that big smile and the little dimples. You’re the girl with pig-tails that lived on the lighthouse island.”

“Yes, and I still live there although, without the pigtails.” She met his gaze with a broad smile and held out her gloved hand. “I’m Belle Montague.”

He took her hand and kissed it, glove and all. “Well, Belle Montague, I’m pleased to meet you again. Would you care to have a soda with me? I think Mr. Shelton’s around here somewhere.”

“Sounds like fun, but I have to meet my papa in a few minutes down at the docks, Mr. Rinehart.”

“Mr. Rinehart? The name’s Lawrence. Mister Rinehart‘s my dad.” His lips spread into the turned up grin that made Belle’s heart flutter. “Perhaps another time? What about tomorrow? What about a picture show?”

She quickly calculated in her head when Papa would be free to row her over in the dinghy. She crossed her fingers behind her back and answered. “Fine. I’m coming to the mainland for shopping anyway. I should be finished by one. Is that all right?” Belle attempted to sound as though she were accustomed to being asked out to moving picture shows every day of the week. In actuality, she felt like a fish in shallow water.

After Lawrence finished his purchase and left the drugstore, she couldn’t imagine why her head felt so light and she wanted to dance. Belle planted her feet solidly with each step in order to keep from skipping or floating out the front door instead of paying Mr. Shelton for the Tonic. She stopped by the sample barrel and picked up a free trial of Lydia Pinkham’s home-brewed herbal remedy for young ladies and a sample of Foleys Honey & Tar Compound for Papa. Belle stepped lightly like a gentle breeze blowing in from the sea, carrying her along Main Street and turning down Water Street to the docks to meet Papa.

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