I "knew" Aunt Bess long before I began writing this book.
I have always adored "classic" movies. Years ago, I watched the Doris Day/Frank Sinatra flick "Young At Heart," in which Ethel Barrymore played the role of a spinster aunt living with her brother and his three daughters. Aunt Jessie was sharp and sassy and full of love and no-nonsense character.
Initially, I named Aunt Bess "Aunt Kay," then realized about halfway through the manuscript that "Aunt Kay" was too much like Boyd MacKay. I struggled with a new name, but when I came across "Bess," I loved it. Sharp. Sassy. No-nonsense.
I wanted Aunt Bess to be loving and lovely but not someone Alice-Ann would want to end up like (namely, unmarried). The decision that Aunt Bess would choose to not marry her beau from World War I wounded my heart. Some decision are difficult to make, and her choice to stay single was exactly that. I don't think there are many young women from those days who didn't fret over the lack of a proposal from another man should they say "no" to someone offering them a married life.
But a married life is not always a happy or fulfilled life. It can be quite miserable. Better to have loved and lost ...
Aunt Bess gives Alice-Ann a scripture to hold on to and tells her to pray. Sometimes, when we go to God in prayer, however, to seek His will for our lives, we are really trying to convince God that our thoughts and ideas are the way to go.
But God cannot be manipulated. Aunt Bess understood that. Alice-Ann had to learn it.
Enjoy the following scene with Aunt Bess, who always called Alice-Ann, simply, "Alice." Sharp. Sassy. No-nonsense.
“Alice,” Aunt Bess said, her piercing brown eyes never leaving her handwork. “We’ve managed to eat a cold lunch, and Irene and I have gotten the kitchen cleaned up, and all so your party can start on time without a hitch. Your friends will arrive within the next two hours.” Only then did she glance up and cock a brow. “So why don’t you go check the back room and make sure everything is set up like you want for your party and stop worrying your daddy. Least you could do, considering how much Brother hates cold cuts for lunch especially on a day as nippy as this one.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Alice-Ann stepped back, pulled the sides of the plum-colored dress Aunt Bess had made special for her celebration, and spun around. “But before I do, what do you think, Aunt Bess?” she asked, keeping her voice down. “Do I look all grown up like you said I would?”
Aunt Bess had returned her attention to her knitting, but stopped long enough to size her up, she gave Alice-Ann a generous wink. “You’ll do in a pinch,” she said with a smile.
“Oh, Aunt Bess,” Alice-Ann leaned over to give her maiden aunt a tight squeeze, but not without protest from the family’s matriarch. “I’m absolutely about to burst with excitement about my party.” She kissed Aunt Bess’s dry cheek, which with Aunt Bess’s size, also tended to be fleshy. “Thank you for convincing Papa.”
“Stop this foolishness now,” Aunt Bess said, her voice filled with a lilt. “You’ll ruin this afghan I’m working on.”
Alice-Ann pulled herself away. “Yes’m. I’ll go check on things.” Not only because her aunt had asked, but more because she wanted everything to be perfect. Better than perfect. Because tonight—oh, tonight. Tonight, when everyone was laughing and dancing and drinking punch and eating Aunt Bess’s cake, she’d tell Mack—Boyd MacKay to be exact, the most handsome man alive and one of her brother’s best friends—that she’d loved him since she’d been a girl of twelve and that, if he’d only give her a chance, she’d devote herself to loving him for eternity. And if he turned her down, she’d . . . she’d . . . well, she’d be relentless.