Behind The White Gate is my NaNoWriMo 2015 novel. I wrote it in one month. I changed and edited it million times during the next eleven over more coffee than I care to admit to. And more may be to come. This version I am sharing, it gives a piece of me to you. I am open and love any feedback you might have. If you wish to share it personally you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org .
I am that kind of writer who can tell you what I write..or what I am writing is about. But I will say that this one came to me by passing a white gate on a daily walk to a job I hated and letting my imagination go wild, combined with the coming of womanhood and the women in and out of my life through out the years who had shaped, molded, and influenced me, for the good or for the bad. There are also intertwined lessons in life we often learn the hard way and their shaping of oneself and there is the old “Nothing goes according to plan.” It is being lost and becoming grown up and recognizing yourself in others around you…especially those you tried to be the least like. It is often the lack of denying any longer all that has made you…all of it.
Behind The White Gate is secret’s that aren’t secret, controversy we face today and are just now beginning to speak of but in many homes still in hushed tones. It is shame that you carry and hide from only everybody else who also has their own. It is memories of childhood perceived as an adult. It is letting go. It is changing. It is forgiving, but also not forgetting.
It is raw emotion and no giving excuses.
It comes from a place deep of them that I hope resonate on the page for the reader.
It is fiction drawn on very real emotion.
Past that, maybe you can hep me explain it better.
I will release over time, the Prologue, and then chapter by chapter. I had previously released some bits and pieces. This new full chapter by chapter release will be named WIP (work in progress) Behind The White Gate. A Novel. Chapter 1 (and so on). You can easily search in the search bar for all pieces and keep in order as released.
Currently I hope this will go to publish sooner than later. I am in the search of, and have been researching for, a Literary Agent. Feel free to contact me at my email above.
Thank you for reading.
Peggy J. Davenport
The door burst open and with it the storm that had been now grown to raging outside and in flew three rambunctious kids, two with super white blond hair and one with dark curls…behind them men’s voices mixed with the laughter of women.
My two other and youngest sisters and their perfect families….fantastic timing.
Both the youngest sisters of the family and yet the most advanced in life. From what Mag had kept me updated on through the years. They had been good students, good college students, then come back to the island engaged, bringing soon to be husbands with them straight out of college. Had successful career’s in absolutely boring fields, one being a teacher, another being in medical, and then both had children, giving their mother the grandchildren that her three eldest daughters had not. Giving her mother the steadiness of predictability that her three eldest had not. Given her son’s-in-laws and steady real jobs rather than the follow their passions types of Sas, Mag and Bird. They also had given no trouble at any time in any way shape or form to their mother or in-house living widowed-grandmothers. Bird had obviously not been topped but Sas and even Mag held their own in pranks and teen angst episodes. They were good people, they were Bird’s youngest sisters, set a world apart from the first three daughters of this house by years and an entire different upbringing even of the same home as well as separated by life, it seemed, though the same house hold raised, even though they had known the least of their father, we still shared the same mother and I wondered at how we could be so very different, aside from a generational gap in todays society. It always seemed THEM and US even early on. Eve before our father’s death. To Bird who hadn’t seen them since they were eight and ten years old, they were more strangers than sisters.
“Oh I forgot you all got back today!” Mag exclaimed and stood up in time to grab the bundles of children that threw themselves into her arms…she squeezed them hard with the love of a spoiling Aunt and then hugged their two sets of parents as Sas hugged the parents and then greeted the little one’s, her sisters, and the two brother-in-laws whom Bird had not yet met, who’s weddings she had both received invitations to and both which she did not attend. No explanation. Bird stood and let it sink in that she was there. Both girls…women I mean…they had been girls when I had left, little ones, walked up and hugged me together…
I kept holding my breath on every new encounter thinking I had to be prepared to explain…but nobody was pushing me with the questions asking me what happened or why and how.
They where just…there.
After the initial hug though, the two younger sisters stood off a bit. After stiffly introducing their husbands, and their children who’s births and birthday’s I had missed. And all the Auntie milestones in between. I could barely keep their names straight immediately after the introduction, much less ages. Being introduced as “Aunt Birdy” threw me off immediately and for a moment even Sas and Mag lost composure, realization’s hitting them all at once deeply, strongly, just how awkward a moment this really was and that talking to Bird, and understanding her, wasn’t over yet either.
It was an awkward moment because we were much like strangers who shouldn’t have been. So many years had passed and they had been so young when I left and I hadn’t been the best of sisters…I had been completely non-existent in all of my sister’s lives since leaving except for a very occasional correspondence with Mag only because for who persistence never ceased.
They took the kids to find their grandmother, who was watching and visiting with them while the set’s of parents went to their separate homes to unpack from the vacation trip in Europe they had all just returned from.
Simone and Sierra promised they would come do dinner and coffee’s and catch up with me soon and left with their handsome young husbands. Leaving the children with ShooShoo, as they called her, upstairs in her craft room.
After the whirlwind had left the kitchen with a suddenness all three remaining sisters looked at each other and burst out laughing.
“I don’t want kids.” Sas said to me pointedly. And went about drinking her tea.
“I do when the time comes along.” Mag said, also settling back into her tea.
“Well…I guess I hadn’t really thought to have them. We lived artistic busy lives and both figured that children didn’t fit into that but now I am pregnant. We never said a definite no but we both leaned more in that direction. Sort of an “if it happen’s ok but if not even better and we sure wouldn’t try for it.”
“Are you keeping it?”
“SAS!” Mag gasped and threw a hand towel at her.
“Well she has a choice and it is obviously still early. It’s a logical question, especially in her situation. I am not saying you should or shouldn’t. I am just asking.”
“I…I…well I hadn’t thought of it that way. I guess that is a choice. I really…I don’t feel it’s real yet. I haven’t felt anything of a pregnancy yet and my mind has been so preoccupied with… survival. And I’ve been in such a fucking fog. I ….left out of instinct of protection and now here I am having dreams about him coming and taking the baby so I think…I guess I am leaning toward keeping and having the baby. I just…if I think about it I don’t know how. How do I one day tell my child that I killed their father? What of when they begin asking questions like who their dad is? Not to mention single motherhood. Right now I don’t know tomorrow!”
“Well, you should start thinking on it because nine months flies by real fast and you have already lost about a couple of those.” Sas said…got up and set her tea cup on the drainboard and turned around with a real serious look in her eye just as I had stepped up behind her to do the same. “Bird. Look. It’s your decision and we back you one hundred percent either way. It won’t be easy either way and it’s a long hard haul if you go through with it but if you go through with it…you have to be ready to be a mom. Put yourself in that mind frame. You will have to pull yourself together.” With that she gave a hug warmer than her words and then walked out of the kitchen. Sas, always say what anyone else is too afraid to say type of person.
Mag walked over and grabbed me into a big deep hug. “I know Honey. I know.” She patted my back and cooed. I hadn’t realized that the tears had been streaming. I didn’t understand why she was comforting me like a child until our mother walked in with my niece and nephews and caught the scene…abruptly turning the kids around and shooing them off for some errand through the house. She came directly over and grabbed Bird in a rough hug but then squeezed…and didn’t let go until the cry was good and done. Hearing the three children running back through the house yelling “We found it ShooShoo!” She let go…took Bird by the shoulders and looked her square and hard in the eye’s “You are perhaps cracked, My bird, but you are far from broken.” And gathered the children as they burst in and swept them along outside leaving me and Mag alone in the kitchen again, but not before giving Mag a look that said “take care of her.” I really didn’t know what to think on that. With every question that swirled in my head. I hadn’t been able to think past the blood stained concrete and now I realized ….almost just remembered, that I had this to situation to think about but even more so was I thrown off by the woman who I hated almost my whole life and for sure the past sixteen years, somehow being this quiet force since I’d been back. All of it confusing. Not at all who I remembered and yet not at all who I was still ready to talk to and who easily was pretty avoidable so far since I’d returned.
Mag took me by the arm and led me to my upstairs room where I, on my own, washed my face at the sink and Mag drew a bath. I stripped down upon command and Mag turned and caught sight of my naked body…covered in bruises from neckline to toe. Easily covered during winter months and turtle necks. Gasping she nearly whispered “What did he do to you?” In absolute horror. Hearing it and seeing it were two different things. Two weeks later and my body was far from healed. She helped me tenderly into the bath and washed my back softly. She was in her own shock at the sight of my body. Finally I said ” He never touched my face. This last time was the first time he touched my face. Most of those bruises are gone and it wasn’t that bad. Nothing broken. But this is pretty normal…what my body looks like now. He wasn’t really about hitting as much as…torture in ways, grabbing and twisting flesh and whatnot. But the bruises. He did that. A lot.”
Mag swallowed back the lump in her throat and unable to speak simply nodded. Then her tears began to spill and she dropped the washcloth and spun from the room apologizing. I leaned back and soaked and lay there for a good long time. It had been the first time I had been able to cry, to just….cry. I had been wandering in such a shock and daze the past two weeks. It was sometime later and I must have dozed as the water had cooled when Sas knocked softly and then entered “Mag has been in crying hysterics for awhile but finally fell asleep. I calmed her and gave you time to yourself but am now checking on you. Are you ok? She told me what was wrong.” I nodded…she entered and closed the door and grabbed a big towel, holding it out so that I could modestly step out of the cooled bath. She helped dry my hair, staying silent while she stared at each bruise she saw as I dried my body. My blackened shoulders and arms, my blue and purple turning to yellow now legs and feet. She just stayed silent in a steady calm. That had been her always, even when it was our Mother’s bruises left on our bodies then. Bruises we had kept hidden from our Father. I met her eye’s in the mirror and she finished drying my hair and said after a moment “I would have killed him. And I wouldn’t be the least bit sorry for it.”
I wrapped into my robe and also, like Mag, went to my own bed to fall into an emotionally tear ridden exhausted sleep. Sas turned down the lights and sat with me until I was sound asleep before leaving the room.
It was dark when I woke up, slightly disoriented a moment before I remembered where I was, the tears had apparently continued in my exhausted sleep, though I had no memory of dream. Mom was sitting in the chair in a corner reading a book when I woke. I didn’t say anything. Just watched her. She knew I had risen but continued reading. I didn’t interrupt her…the golden rule of readers. Do Not Interrupt.
I studied her face and the lines that had come upon it in the time since I’d last seen her. Her jet black hair was completely gray now but long and still silky. It was quite becoming of her really and I thought fleetingly that if I aged like her it would be a good thing. She was still fit and slim and gravity had not hit her much, if at all. Her green eye’s still prominent and her mouth set in that determined look with the slight furrowed brow I remembered growing up. She was the same, only older, and it seemed to me and the memory that I held of her..perhaps…quieter in spirit.
She put the book down, closing it’s pages but not looking up. She looked at her hands upon the book rather. She sighed and sighed again before saying ” The girls told me about the bruises.” I nodded and shifted position upon the bed. Sitting Indian style facing her, still studying the calmness about her that I held no memory of.
“They have told me you are expecting.”
Again all I could do was nod.
“I wish you had told me. I wish you had come home before. Called us. Anything. But I understand it too, Bird. You need to understand that I know what is in your mind about this.”
Anger rose as I realized where she was going with this. I got up off the bed, wrapping the robe I was still in tightly around me and pacing the floor “No. No you don’t because Papa never would have hit you. He never would have done this to you.” I stood in front of her and dropped the robe to show her the bruises. She ….her eye’s gleamed with instant tears and breath caught in a gasp. She stood up and walked over but I brushed her away, angry at what she was ready to accuse my father of. Angry that here she was, ready to blame someone else for the way she was. For what she had done to our family. For killing her husband. For forgetting the bruise’s she had left on her little girls in one or another of her own rampages. “I wasn’t blaming your father, Bird. I was blaming mine. But you have to let this anger about your father go. You have to let this anger about me go. I didn’t kill him, Bird. It wasn’t me. Your father…Your father shot himself. That was him. Nobody made him do it. Nobody pushed him to do it. Your father did that. You can listen and hear me and know the truth or you can continue being angry with me but it won’t change what really happened and why, and no good will come of your holding your anger, At me, or at your father, especially carrying a baby. They feel what you feel, Bird. Mothers advice right there.”
“Mother’s advice? Children feel what their mother’s feel? So, mom then tell me what exactly you think I feel. What I have felt since I was a baby, a little girl finding you the way I did?” The venom spitting from my mouth seemed to hit my mother like punches to her face but she stood quietly. She put her hands out…touching but not touching the bruised shoulders….and she cried and cried while I stood there. My anger seething. But seeing her different but not wanting to let go of the anger that I felt pulling away from me at the same time.
Finally we both sat, her on the chair and me on the ottoman. I handed her tissues.
“I never wanted this for my babies. I never wanted them to hurt.”
“You never protected us. You hurt us more than anybody”
“I protected you a lot….Bird you have a view of things that isn’t everything…it doesn’t hold all of the pieces.”
“I just….I can’t believe you had any reason to do what you did. Leave us like you did. Hurt Papa the way you did most of all. He never hurt you mom.”
“No no..not this…not….God My Birdie…not that. But…Your father had his demons and you have to know that. He WAS a good man….but he could be the ugliest too at times.”
“I …mom…please leave me alone will you?”
A paused and pressed silence, lips held tight as she studied me and then she got up and left. I could feel her own anger rising.Strife traits and the woman I was like most but wanted to be like the least. The door slammed behind her. I was left alone again but sat and wondered about the things she had said, what little I’d let her say. Perhaps I should let my mother have a chance at explaining. Ask her now the question’s I never had asked her then. But I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready to feel empathy for her or understanding for her reason’s of why she was the way she was. Not one bit ready for giving her an inch. But at the same time I realized for the first time that my attitude was incredibly juvenile as the small bit she had said did make the adult self in me realize that there was a story that I had not yet read, that my mother and my childhood only seemed like the cover of the book I’d plenty judged.
I fell back asleep crying again but this time I had plenty of dreams.
I dreamt of a time when I was around four years old and I had woken up and called out for my mother…but no one came. The house was very quiet and I got up and walked out of my room and down the hall. Our house was never in complete silence so I became scared. I called out again and no answer. I found the door to my parents room at the end of the hall open and went inside but it was empty. The bed perfectly made. Then I stepped in water puddled on the floor….and heard the water on coming from the bathroom, underneath the door is still came. But the water wasn’t just water…it was red and pink and black too and it swirled around my feet like a water color painting as I walked to the bathroom door and turned the nob, calling out “Mooom?” Again, scared but for some reason knowing what I was about to find in a way which I couldn’t, what four year old could understand this? But my dream-child new.
The tub was over flowing and she lay in it , wearing her pretty pink dress, the blood all around her, her black hair floating around her face, her eye’s closed and her skin pale. I dropped my stuffed dog and went running…splashing through the water but I ran to her, not away, and grabbed her arm which looked hurt and pulled and pulled screaming “Mom wake up! Mom wake up!” I last remember my father’s voice yelling her name and grabbing her around her body, reaching his arms still in his suit jacket straight into the water and lifting her up….
I woke to the sun streaming in again, my hair matted with sweat and tears. I made my way to a hot shower and contemplated what image burned into my memory that often haunted my dreams since I was a child. What would make my mother do the things that she did, Multiple times through out my childhood. Her moods, her gray times as we called them, “mama’s having a gray-time”, Sas would whisper and we knew to play quietly then. I also thought about having this baby and what that would mean. And I let my mind wander to not having it, either way I hadn’t thought about it at all…not in a selfish I have better things to think about way but in a fog of I have killed my husband way. I knew not at all what my future held outside of the plans and life I had spent years building and constructing that on the day when I left the loft and as I turned the key in the door even before I heard his voice, felt his hand grab my arm and heard the gunshot, that carefully constructed life had begun to crumble came crashing down entirely.
Getting dressed in jeans and pulling my hair back I made my way out of the house without stopping for coffee. Thankfully I didn’t even run into anybody in the house as I wasn’t in the frame of mind. I was in a hurry before I could change my mind and the next thing I knew I was pulling open the big garage doors where my sister had told me dad’s car still sat should I want to try and drive it, if not I could drive her’s too but it looked like it was in use that day and not in it’s usual spot. Memories didn’t hit me in this house or being back as strong as they did the moment I opened the car door and slid into the rich brown leather seats. I hadn’t thought about or expected his smell. I didn’t expect it so strong and I didn’t expect the memories that rushed over me as I inhaled deep the smell of polished leather and tobacco mixed with ironed starched handkerchief and aftershave. That smell was my dad as strong as if he was sitting right here with me giving me my first driving lesson and sixteen years after the last time I’d sat next to him in this car it was still so strong. So strong it stopped me dead in my tracks and I flashed back to a moment of driving on his lap, laughing and telling him when the light had turned green “It’s geen pappa!” The sound of his baritone laughter ringing as I shook off the memory and slammed the door closed, started the engine and turned toward Houston. I had made a choice in the shower, realizing that what illed my mother and caused her to be the mother that I remember was not a mother I could allow myself to ever be and I was more like her than I wanted to admit but more like her that in the face of motherhood and the ending disaster of being a wife I couldn’t help but to admit. That ill that had caused her to want to leave her daughters and cut her wrists and lie in the water without thinking about us at all had made my decision. I had that in me too, her blood coursed through my veins and what was in her could be in me and I could not put my child through the pain I felt. That was enough reason. I needed no reason of my father’s death or my childs father’s death to be my reason.