Have you ever felt like you were "less than" those around you? Possibly even a best friend ... or two?
When I created the protagonist for my novel The One True Love of Alice-Ann, I knew I'd need a friend (or two) to help Alice-Ann express her "less than" complex. For sixteen-year-old Alice-Ann, life's unfair hand dealt to her is not just that her brother is the cute one ... the funny one ... the one with the new bride who is--wouldn't you know it--beautiful as well. So I created Maeve and Claudette. Together with Alice-Ann, they enjoy the friendship so typical of girls in the early 1940s.
Like Alice-Ann, Maeve and Claudette grow up rather quickly, thanks in part to the war. But in spite of being beautiful and (in Claudette's case) more financially blessed, they are loyal to a fault. They are the kind of friends we all hope to have and want to be.
I found several photos of young girls from that era as I began to develop the two best friends, but the one shown here was the one I kept nearby as I wrote. The brunette is Maeve and the blonde is Claudette.
Now that you've met them, let's read a little excerpt from the book:
The girls gulped down the sweet milk, then grabbed the cases they’d left with their coats and ran up the stairs.
“I wonder where Irene is,” Maeve said when they’d reached the landing.
“No telling, knowing her,” Claudette answered as Alice-Ann shushed them both.
“Be careful. These walls have ears, you know.”
“No worries, doll. She’s not here,” Claudette said.
The friends flew into the bedroom and Alice-Ann closed the door. “How do you know?” she asked.
“Because. I saw her walking into Carter’s Department Store when the bus drove us through town.”
Alice-Ann nearly dropped her books onto her narrow desk near the window. “You did? Wonder what she’s doing there?”
“If you saw her, Claudette,” Maeve put in, her voice holding doubt, “why did you say you didn’t know where she was at?”
Claudette placed her books and suitcase on the chenille-covered bed, which wobbled beneath the weight. “Because, Maeve . . .” Claudette rolled her eyes playfully. “I don’t know where she is, I only know where she isn’t.”
Alice-Ann crossed her arms. “I wish she liked me better. Or even a little.”
“Maybe,” Maeve pondered, “she was at Carter’s to buy you something for your birthday.”
“No. She and Nelson gave me my present the night of—well, on the night of my birthday.” Nelson, who’d always been gifted with woodwork, had made five clothes hangers for her, each one monogrammed with her initials.
“Maybe she’s Christmas shopping,” Maeve added. “Only a few days left, you know.”
Claudette tossed her hands into the air. “Who knows and who cares? Come on, girls. We’ve got to come up with a plan of action to make sure our Alice-Ann here has loads of time with one Boyd MacKay before the night’s over.”
Alice-Ann tingled at the thought. “Well, one thing’s for sure, it’s too cold to meander outside.”
Maeve sat on the bed. “Maybe you could offer him a glass of punch and he’ll walk over to the table with you and then you can tell him.”
“With Aunt Bess not a foot away?” Claudette said. “No. What you need to do, Alice-Ann, is offer him a cup of coffee. He’s going off to the war soon. He’s a man who drinks coffee now.” She cut her eyes toward the ceiling. “Probably black. No milk. No sugar.”
“Because he’s sweet enough,” Maeve said with a giggle, which brought a smile to Alice-Ann’s lips as well.
Claudette wasn’t to be deterred. “Ask Aunt Bess if you can go to the kitchen to prepare it . . . he’ll follow you . . . and . . .” Her eyes lit up as she raised her arms, pretending to wrap them around a man’s shoulders. “You’ll say, ‘Mack, my darling—”
Alice-Ann and Maeve giggled again. “You watch too many movies, Claudette,” Maeve said.
“A hopeless romantic is what I am,” she said, then fell across the bed on her back, her arms crossed over herself as if she were in a passionate embrace. She quickly raised herself up on her elbows. “Hey. Speaking of gorgeous, have either of you had a gander at the new manager of Walker’s Inn?”
Both girls shook their heads.
“He came to church last Sunday. Dreamy, I tell you. Positively dreamy.” She fell against the bed again with a sigh. “A living doll and the living end.”
“I’m a Baptist,” Maeve said, opening her suitcase and bringing out her dress, which she fluffed in the air. “We don’t sit in church dreaming about men, no matter how good-looking they are, while we’re supposed to be listening to the preacher.”
“Well, I’m Methodist, Maeve Hillis, and we are free thinkers.”
Alice-Ann moved to the bed, anxious to change the subject. The way the people in town carried on—the Baptists and the Methodists—one would think they were of different faiths entirely. Like the Lewens, who ran the finer of the two clothing stores in town, but who had to drive all the way to Savannah each and every Saturday to worship, leaving their store in the care of their employees. The way Alice-Ann saw it, all believers in Christ shared a common bond that should more than outweigh their outward differences.
“Come on, city girls,” she said. “Both of you, show me your dresses, and then I’ll show you mine.”
The words were barely out of her mouth when the sound of a car rolling up the dirt driveway stopped her from walking to the closet. Instead, she moved to the window, pushed back the thick muslin curtains and peered out. “Irene’s back.”
“Lucky her, having a car,” Claudette said, coming up behind her. “Daddy says he’ll buy one for me, he just won’t say when.”