As soon as the story for "Alice-Ann" created itself in my mind, I knew that one of the first things I had to do was find Alice-Ann.
The One True Love of Alice-Ann opens on December 7, 1941. Alice-Ann Branch is 16 on that day. She is excited about the party her father and Aunt Bess are throwing for her that evening, because 1) her friends will be there, and 2) this is the night she plans to confess her love (crush) to her one of her brother's best friends, Boyd "Mack" MacKay, five years her senior.
But as we all know, December 7, 1941 was the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and America was forced into WWII. Alice-Ann's party is ruined as is her opportunity to tell Mack how she feels.
Most of the book takes place when Alice-Ann is a maturing (faster than typical, thanks to the war) 18/19-year-old. She works at the bank during the week and helps her father on the farm on Saturdays. Her two best friends, Claudette and Maeve, are, in every way, beautiful. Alice-Ann is, in her eyes, extremely plain, which is anything but true. She has light brown, frizzy hair. Her skin is fair and freckled. Her teeth are slightly crooked. Her eyes are hazel, which nearly wash her out. She's 5'5" and weighs 115 pounds (I don't think this is mentioned in the book, but fiction authors know a lot more than they share ...).
As I said, once I had her physical elements down, I needed to find her. So I went online and searched for photos of teenage girls who lived in the early 1940s. The photo you see here is the same photo I kept nearby while I worked on the novel. I have no idea who she really is, but as soon as I saw her, I knew this was her.
If you have read The One True Love of Alice-Ann, tell me what you think. Does this photo come close to the girl you imaged?
And now, a scene from The One True Love of Alice-Ann:
“I saw Janie Wren. She’s working there now. Do you remember her?”
“Pretty girl? Graduated with your class?”
“Mine and Maeve’s. Mmm-hmm.”
He grinned, then brought his hands up in the air to form a curvaceous figure. “I remember.”
He whistled between his teeth and she swatted at him.
“Oh, stop it.”
Carlton had the good decency to blush. “Well, she is pretty. Or at least she was the last time I saw her.”
Alice-Ann grimaced, feeling the old self-consciousness fly over her. “Ugh. She still—is.”
His eyes squinted. “Do I sense the green-eyed monster?”
“And Janie’s beauty bothers you because . . .?”
“Because I’m—not—truth be told—beautiful. Not by the longest stretch of the word. I can’t even be considered attractive.”
He shook his head. “Alice-Ann, you’re a beautiful girl in your own right.”
Alice-Ann couldn’t be sure which bothered her most, that Carlton had called her a “girl” or that he’d declared her beautiful “in her own right.”
He raised both hands. “Wait. No. That didn’t sound right.” He leaned forward and rested his elbows on the arms of the chair. “What I meant to say was—”
She waved her hand in the air to stop him. “Carlton Hillis. If you and I are going to be friends, then the least we can do is be honest with each other.”
“Ah . . . then. What is this honesty you speak of?”
“First of all, my hair is like a—a—Brillo pad.”
“Hyperbole doesn’t look good on you, Miss Branch.”
She leaned over. “And look at these teeth.” She made a horsey face.
“I can’t quite make them out.” Carlton leaned back in his chair and shifted for comfort. “But I remember them. Front two. One laps a little over the other.”
“Makes me look—buck-toothed!”
“I’ve seen buck-toothed. Boy who was in basic with me. That boy had the teeth of a mule, which you don’t. Besides, it gives you character. What kind of person has perfect teeth anyway?”
“Claudette. Maeve. You.”
Carlton ran his index over his teeth. “Yep. Sure do, come to think of it. I am, therefore, a man without character.”
Alice-Ann bit her bottom lip to keep from laughing. “And my face,” she continued, wondering what he might have to say about her freckles.
“What’s wrong with your face?”
“You can practically play Connect the Dots on my face.”
“Again, hyperbole. A dash of freckles across the nose only serves to make you both cute and adorable.”
Alice-Ann threw her hands up and flopped against the back of the sofa. “Cute? Three-year-old girls are cute and adorable, Carlton. Young women almost nineteen years of age don’t want to be known as . . . cute.” She sighed. “Or adorable.”
The rhythm of Carlton’s breathing came slow and easy, as though he pondered something beyond Alice-Ann’s ability to reason. “So what happened that day?” he finally asked.