rachelcoker


NEW BLOG + a giveaway

Guess what? I’ve moved! Packed up my bags, switched my address, and settled into my new place. That’s right! From now on, I will be blogging from www.rachelcoker.com.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t move all my archives (two and a half years of blogging adds up, you guys!) but this site will stay up for you to peruse when you’re feeling bored. But I’m not going to be blogging from here anymore, so make sure you sign up for updates at www.rachelcoker.com to stay up-to-date!

In fact, to launch the new site, I’m hosting a giveaway at the new blog! So be sure to hop on over for your chance to win two autographed books!

It’s been fun blogging here, but I’m looking forward to starting something new (with the same old witty commentary, of course) in a brand-new place!

-Rachel


Video Blog: Favorite Characters

I’m a bad blogger. Mainly because I go so long without saying anything, then randomly post about something weird for no reason at all. Oh, well. I’ll just blame it on being a seventeen-year-old girl, on top of everything else.

I made a video blog, though! Talking about my favorite characters and who I would date or be friends with from my books. Random stuff, ya’ll. Oh well.

I want to hear your feedback, though!!! Who are your favorite characters from my books? Do you prefer Allie or Scarlett? Sam or Frank? Well?????

-Rachel


The Top Five Imaginary Guys I’d Probably End Up Marrying

… You know, if they weren’t imaginary. And all that awfulness.

5. Gilbert Blythe.

Gilbert

Why? Because he’s hot. Haha, well, maybe not. He’s handsome. In a late-19th century kind of way. And because he’s the smartest guy in his class and grows up to be a doctor which probably pays, well, a ton, not to mention is totally cute and smart. And he says amazing things like (when responding to Anne’s rejection of his proposal): “Your friendship can’t satisfy me, Anne. I want your love.” Which, let’s face it, would make me turn him down like ten times before accepting him. If he could just keep thinking of different ways to be so good to me. I’m sure he could. He’s pretty brilliant like that.

4. Robin Hood

Robin hood

If you can get past the whole stealing-from-the-rich thing (and the tights; you’d have to get past the tights), Robin Hood is a total catch. He can sing, (at least the fox version can–which is the version we’re all in love with anyway) climb trees, and preserve justice like no one’s business. Plus he has a British accent which gives him BIG STINKIN’ POINTS in any female’s eyes.

3. Rhett Butler

Rhett

Okay, let’s face it–he was a total cad. He drank, gambled, flirted with other women, and got rich working with the Yankees after the war. BUT, he was a total dreamboat! You totally hate him half the book, and then you’re just madly in love with him for the other half. I have no idea how he worked that out. More guys need to learn that secret. No wait–they don’t. Because no one else can do arrogant/attractive the way that Rhett can, and therefore no one should try. If Scarlett O’Hara is the girl we all love to hate, Rhett is the man we all hate to love. Everything in me is screaming against him, but my heart of hearts tells me he’s totally dreamy. The end.

2. Prince Charmont

Prince char

Because if you can have a prince on your list of guy’s you’d probably end up marrying, why not? I’d be a great princess. Not. But I’d like to be one anyway, to eat free food and wear pretty dresses, if for no other reason. Plus Prince Char will always be the literary crush of my childhood. Making him number two on my list. Although neither of us are good at accents or languages, so we’d probably be a bad match anyway. We’d suck as diplomats.

1. Eddie Redmayne

Eddie redmayne

Okay, so he’s real as real can be–a fact I realize all too well. But I can’t put “Marius” on the list because–hello–Marius is like the creepiest character ever and we all only really like him because Eddie is so darn attractive. Somehow his sheer attractiveness completely overrules Marius’ creepy, stalkerish behavior. But I digress. What I really wanted to say was that Eddie Redmayne is perfection and the only male capable and making my sister and I literally squeal. It’s disgustingly childish, but I have no embarrassment. I’m a female and he has freckles and therefore it’s perfectly rational.

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Clearly, being sick for six days messed with my brain and turned me into a twelve-year-old girl. Please comment and fangirl away while I go and think of something semi-serious to blog about later this week.

-Rachel


The Best Years of My Life

I’m graduating high school next month. OHMYGOSH. When did that even happen???? One hundred and sixteen long months of questions, papers, equations, projects, and late nights are all wrapping up in less than thirty days (give or take a few, haha). I’m going to be finished with high school. Finished with this phase of my life. Oh my gosh.

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Me being silly with my sister.

Being seventeen is hard. Gosh, still being a high schooler is hard. Sometimes I feel so stuck. I’m not really an adult, but I’m no longer a child. It’s like those awkward early-teen years when you find yourself fluttering between the kids table, stacked with pbjs and animal crackers, and the adult table, where fancy food and wedding rings and sophisticated talks about mortgages and marriage abound. You just feel so in-between.

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Me being silly with my bestie.

Sometimes, it’s hard to be content at this point in my life. I want to be doing things. To be working that much harder to accomplish something great with my life. Everything seems to be holding me back. School, commitments, age… I just want to close my eyes and wish on a star and wake up a few years older with a perfect boyfriend and a plan for my future and my whole life just together. (Or, in the words of Jenna Rink, “Thirty and flirty and thriving…”)

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Me being silly with my other bestie!

And it’s true. Sometimes I get so caught up thinking about the ever-elusive future, that I forget I’m living in the present. I forget what it’s like to live in the present. In the here and now. In the amazing and fun world of a seventeen-year-old girl.

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Me being silly with flowers.

My life isn’t super glamorous. I get zits every now and then and sometimes I fight with my parents occasionally I just get fed up and want to do something else and be something else. A grownup. A mature, responsible adult.

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Me being silly while my friend looks on and thinks I’m crazy.

But if I was a mature, responsible adult, would I still be able to sit in bed and do my economics homework in my pajamas? Would I still be able to go to the movies with my friends and laugh so hard that the cranky love-birds in front of us threaten to kick us out, and the old people across the theater wrinkle their noses in delight that there are in fact some decent young people nowadays who appreciate a good Billy Wilder film? If I wasn’t seventeen years old, would I still dance around to “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together” and think it’s not-even-funny how extremely funny it is to put a goat in a Taylor Swift music video?

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Me being silly while I clean the bathroom.

I have the whole rest of my life to chase after my dreams and climb mountains of success. I have (Lord-willing) years and years ahead of me to fill up with responsibility and stress and grown-up duties. But how much more time do I have to just be a kid. Granted, a very cool, very witty kid. But a kid nonetheless. In a few short months, I’ll be a woman. A very fun, very cute woman, obviously. But still. Time is ticking. How am I going to make the most out of this last month of high school?

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Me being silly with my cousin. After eating waaaaay too much turkey.

I’m going to laugh.

I’m going to dance.

I’m going to sing at the top of my lungs and not care that I don’t hit a single note.

I’m going to stay up until four in the morning with my best friends, and then make loads and loads of waffles for breakfast.

I’m going to take pictures of myself doing weird, weird things.

I’m going to blush when I mess up and then get over it and get on with my life.

I’m going to live.

And I’m going to enjoy every second of it.

-Rachel

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Back When I Wanted to Be a Broadway Star

[Caution: This post contains some very, very embarrassing old photos so please, no judgment]

broadway

You may have heard me talk before about my previous ambitions of being a Broadway actress/singer/dancer/all-around-star. It all started when I was about ten or so, and someone got me to watch “Phantom of the Opera.” Ding, ding, ding! There you have it, folks. I was hooked. I dreamed of being Christine and getting to wear pretty lacy dresses and sashay around candle-lit stages with the fog glowing in the stage lights. Seriously, it was all I ever thought about. I bought posters of New York City and hung them in my room. I begged my mom to let me go and visit. I begged my grandpa to take me to a Broadway play. And I memorized every word of “Phantom”, just in case I happened to get my lucky break when some talent scout randomly asked me to sing “All I Ask of You” in the grocery store one day. You never know. It could happen.

Anyway, when I was eleven years old, my grandpa announced that he was going to take me and my cousin Rena, along with our moms, to New York City for one long, adventure-filled weekend. There was only one slight catch. We were going in the middle of February.

To this day, I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so cold in my life. Seattle in January didn’t have anything on a February day in NYC. We lasted about thirty seconds on top of the empire state building, because the arctic breezes nearly fast-froze us. We avoided Central Park, horse-and-buggy rides, and anything that would involve us being outside for more than thirty minutes at a time.

Thank goodness there was only one place I wanted to go that was completely indoors and very-well heated. And that was Broadway. Okay, okay, I know that Broadway is actually a street, and that there are tons of theaters that play tons of shows that range from the childish to the sleazy. But there was only one building I was thinking about, and that was the one with the big blazing signs that read, “Phantom of the Opera” out front. They dazzled, they glowed. It was love at first sight.

We got all dressed up and I distinctly remember that being the first ever night I wore makeup. My cousin wore bright blue eyeshadow and I somehow thought it would be cool to wear hot pink lipgloss and we both donned our best little black dresses for the performance. My grandpa even brought his own tux. Gosh, we were so sophisticated.

I remember that as being the best night of my life, up until that point. I knew every word, every line, every plot twist. But I fell in love all over again. With Broadway. With the stage. With my supposed future.

Well, if you’re reading my blog today, you’ll probably realize that I am, in fact, not a Broadway star. Why? Because one day, I realized I can’t sing. Or dance particularly well. And I don’t exactly have that “star-like” quality that makes people shell out big bucks to come and see your face highlighted in lights.

So I write. And take pictures. And do just about anything possible to stay behind-the-scenes, if you will. But I still have my little indulgences. I hadn’t listened to a showtune in years (Okay, okay, besides “Defying Gravity”, which I completely love and blast all the time, despite having never seen nor knowing anything about the play “Wicked”. Because I’m weird like that), but when my mom surprised me with the “Les Miserables” soundtrack for Easter, I lit up like a little girl on Christmas morning. And proceeded to play it five times in a row on our long ride to Cincinnati, and sing every single line with overly dramatic flair, just to make my mom laugh. “Had you seen her today you might now how it feeeeels… To be struck to the bone in a moment of breathless deliiiiight…”

We all need a little something in our lives to remind us of the dreams we once held high and lofty. And maybe it won’t always be my dream to be a writer, but I sure know I’ll never forget the “breathless delight” that I get from telling a good story. Even an embarrassing one. Like the one I can’t believe I just told you now.

-Rachel


Convention Season

Whew! That was a crazy week! Sorry I have been a little bit elusive this past week, but I was busy working hard at the 2013 Midwest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio! It was amazingly fun trip and I felt so blessed to have been given the opportunity to speak in front of so many eager homeschool parents and students, and to meet them face to face and hear about their lives.

I do a wide variety of speaking engagements, from schools to libraries to conventions, and I have to say that homeschoolers are some of my absolute favorite people to be around. Because I am a homeschooler, duh. Therefore I love talking to other people whose lives are similar to mine and who I feel I can really encourage and inspire with my story.

The week had so many highlights, I’m really not sure where to start, but I thought I’d just record all of my favorite moments for you all like a photo diary of sorts!

On Wednesday, my mom and I drove up from Virginia to Ohio on a ten-hour long road trip that lasted us pretty much half the day because obviously we 1) HAD to stop and eat. Several times. And 2) HAD to stop and take pictures (well, at least I did). When I think back on it, ten hours is a loooong time, but it didn’t seem long at all because my mom and I intensely debated everything under the sun for at least half the car ride, then we belted out the “Les Miserables” soundtrack for the other half and talked about how absolutely dreamy Eddie Redmayne is as Marius. (Yes, this is how we pass our time) But seriously, it was an absolutely gorgeous drive that I totally want to take again sometime with my sister so I can do a ton of portraits by all the beautiful old barns in Ohio. But yeah, we were glad when we finally saw this sign:

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Not that I didn’t totally love West Virginia! Because I did. The Blue Ridge Mountains always make me drop my jaw, and I’ve always said I preferred mountains and valleys to oceans or farmlands. There’s just something about the hills and rolling fields of cattle that make my heart happy. Also, the Shenandoah Valley is where I’m living when I grow up. I’ve already decided.

2When we got to the convention center, we were quick to set up my booth and get some photos by it for posterity (aka to wave in front of my kids one day and say, “See? Mommy had a life! She had her own banner and everything!” when they make me feel old and lifeless).

3I was also fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to co-present two workshops with my wonderful CPA (certified public accountant) Carol Topp on the topics of “Teens and Microbusinesses” and “How You (Or Your Child) Can Become a Published Author”. Think I had anything to say on those topics? You’re probably very right.

4Even I was completely shocked at the amazing response our workshops received. Both sessions were completely packed, standing-room-only, with kids sitting on the floors at our feet and adults pressed up against the walls and standing in the hallways, listening through the open doors. Wow. Talk about feeling like a celebrity! (And in this photo you can only see half the room!)

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After the workshops, the number of teens and parents that came up to talk to me was absolutely overwhelming. And what I found funny was that while most of them were trying to tell me how much I had encouraged their children, *I* was the one feeling encouraged and inspired all over again every time I talked to someone new who was interested in the same things I am! One girl even broke down in tears when she was at my booth, and her parents had to explain that she had always wanted to be an author and never thought it was possible in her teens and as a homeschooler. I just about cried myself, it was so sweet. But I made many new friends and even had a few people ask to take photos with me, which was a total celebrity moment again. And I even met blog reader Rosie, who had driven up to Cincinnati to see me! Yay!

66-2While I’m definitely not sold on the idea of Ohio, and you probably won’t find me building a summer home there, Cincinnati was definitely beautiful in the early morning light. The sun casting beams down the old historic streets in the downtown section was just lovely. I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos. And the weather was just perfect! Not that we really got to enjoy it much, but when we were setting up and packing down our booths, or running out to grab a bite to eat, we just had to smile at the warm breeze that greeted us.

7Our little trip finally had to come to an end, though, and my mom and I spent all day yesterday driving back to old Virginny, listening to “Les Mis” yet again, and singing aloud to all the old country music radio stations we stumbled across in the West Virginia area (and, if I’m being honest, replaying “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together” a few times, just to be obnoxious). A few random and happy surprises awaited us on our way home, though. First we randomly happened upon the first ever Bob Evans restaurant. Our stomachs were growling about lunchtime, and we pulled off the interstate and drove through middle-of-nowhere Ohio where this giant Bob Evans was sitting smack-dab in the middle of a bunch of fields with signs like, “Bring your quilt to our quilt show this weekend!” signs everywhere. Yep, it was the site of the original Bob Evans and it even had the historic house where the Evans children grew up. Weird.

We also stopped about suppertime in the absolutely gorgeous town of Staunton, Virginia, which is where I’ve decided to move on day. Firstly because it’s in the middle of nowhere and is completely surrounded by mountains, with quaint little historic houses scattered around on hilly streets that absolutely called out to me. And secondly because I found the vintage shop of vintage shops tucked away there, and promptly fell in love. An entire attic filled with hundreds of vintage clothes. No wonder they label it a “Vintage Wonderland”. Also, I just realized I’ve begun a nice little habit of going vintage shopping every time I go out of town for a book signing. Let’s keep this tradition going, shall we?

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Overall, it was a fantastic trip and one I hope to make again next year! For those of you who are convention-goers but didn’t get a chance to come and see me in Ohio, I will also be speaking at the ENOCH Convention in New Jersey May 17-18, and HEAV in Virginia June 6-8. And I’d love to do even more conventions next year, so if you have a local convention you’d like to recommend to me, please do so in the comments section!

(This is me on the last day of our trip, coming back to Virginia. I mistakenly asked my mom “Does my hair look okay?” As if ten hours in the car was going to leave me with an even decently good hair day)

10-Rachel


Video Blog: Hopes and Dreams

Hey, ya’ll! I’m in Cincinnati, Ohio this week and I don’t think I’ve heard a single person say “ya’ll” yet. Wonder why that is?? Anyway, I’m here speaking with my CPA Carol Topp at the Midwest Homeschool Convention and signing lots of books at my booth! So if you’re in the Ohio area, come on over and say “hi!”

Before I left yesterday, I filmed a short video blog showcasing both my raspy voice (I have a cold) and my hopes and dreams. Not sure which you’ll find more interesting, but have at it.

I’ll be back soon with pictures and updates from Ohio!

What are your dreams and goals?

-Rachel

 


An Easter Picnic

So I decided to skip the weekly Sunday Stories installment yesterday and spend Easter with my family instead! We got up at the crack of dawn, went to our church’s sunrise and morning services, and then came home and laid around and ate a ton of food. Naturally.

But Saturday I had the opportunity to be *much* more girly and frivolous, thanks to the combined creative talents of myself and my good friend Ashlyn! Ashlyn runs an amazing food blog–www.pedanticfoodie.com–and we thought it might be fun to collaborate for an Easter-themed photoshoot. So Ashlyn made a spectrum of amazing delectables and I got together all my camera supplies and we set up a little picnic in the woods.

I thought you all might enjoy seeing pictures! If you want any of the recipes, Ashlyn will be posting them this week on her blog, www.pedanticfoodie.com. Scones, mushroom risotto, ombre cake… What’s not to love???

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Is There Such a Thing as “Girl Books”??

boy reading

In all the time I have spent traveling to different schools, libraries, and other groups to speak to kids, there is one thing I have observed: Both girls and boys enjoy listening to me talk. While this sounds totally egocentric of me to admit, I swear I’m saying it for a reason! That reason being–I never thought seventh grade boys would enjoy listening to me talk about anything! Much less sit there for an hour and a half while I regale the long and semi-humorous story of how I got published, explain in great detail the plot lines of my two books, and give advice on every writing topic under the sun. And yet–they do! They sit there with their faces pulled in a little half-smirk as they try not to let any of their buddies see just how interesting they find it all. They ask questions, like “So how much money do you make?” and “Hey, are you gonna write another book soon?” and then actually listen as I answer. It’s quite overwhelming, to tell the truth, and immensely flattering!

But as I was thinking about the boys who listen to my lectures the other day, I started wondering just how many of them actually go home and read my book. While it’s true that I have signed many a book to a young middle school boy, I can usually tell by that slight squirm or shift of the eye that those boys are the slightest bit embarrassed. What if their friends catch them with it? What if people can tell that they’re reading a girl book?

And so I started asking myself–Just what is a girl book? And why are boys so scared of them?

If you regarded every single book out there with a photograph of a girl on the cover as a sissified “girl book”, then yeah, no wonder we don’t have too many middle and high-school aged boys reading for fun these days. Because they go to book stores and get it pounded in their heads by all their peers and all the marketing professionals out there that these books are for teenage girls. They’re treated with the same scorn and rejection as the Twilight series, and boys either grab a thick dark book with a dragon claw on the spine, or they make a hasty beeline for the door.

And haven’t you noticed that the exact same is NOT applicable of female readers? You’ll rarely come across a book-loving young girl who wouldn’t jump at the chance to read a book with a dragon, sword, or alien on the cover. Those books aren’t marked “For Boys Only” or made strictly off-limits to anyone in a skirt. Instead, we encourage young women to stand up against the seemingly sexist book market and read those adventurous novels! Girls can basically read any book, any time, anywhere, and not get judged for it.

So why the double standard? Why are guys so afraid of looking “girly”, and girls so fearless about being adventurous?

It’s a question that took me a long, long time to think through, and even now I struggle with it sometimes. It’s always a challenge for me to sell my books to the male market, but it’s something I work long and hard at. I usually stand up in front of a room full of middle-schoolers and put my  hands on my hips and ask in deep voice, “Now, I know what you guys are thinking. You’re thinking, ‘Is this a chick book?'” And that will usually draw some chuckles and nudges from all the preteen males in the room. Then I’ll tell them a funny story about one guy friend of mine who told me that he read my book on an airplane and started to cry. But because he didn’t want anyone to know that he was crying, he started freaking out and trying to cover it. So he ended up making some kind of strangled sound in his throat and sat there staring at my book with a look of contorted horror on his face. The guys usually love that story, and if I make them chuckle, they start to realize that hey, if this cool girl’s friend really liked the book, maybe I would too.

It’s really just one small step, but I think it’s a big leap when it comes to opening up the world of middle-grade literature to both girls and guys. Boys need to realize that reading a book with a girl on the cover isn’t going to make them weak, it’s going to make them smarter. Maybe they’ll learn something about life, or friendship, or even just the way the female mind thinks. And you know what? If they don’t like a book, they don’t have to read it again. Hopefully they’ll just remember that.

Stereotypical “Girly” Books That Should Really Be Read By Middle School Guys:

  • “Chasing Jupiter” by Rachel Coker (duh!)
  • “The Goose Girl” by Shannon Hale
  • “The Two Princesses of Bamarre” by Gail Carson Levine
  • “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle
  • “Matilda” by Roald Dahl
  • “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” by Elizabeth George Speare

-Rachel

P.S. And here is a fantastic blog entry on boys reading “girl books” by Shannon Hale, who really got me thinking on the subject!


Sunday Stories: Rose – Part Three

I’m loving these Sunday Stories because I’m so lazy that it makes me smile to just copy and paste a story into a blog entry and call it a blogging day. ;) Haha… But seriously, it makes me smile to read through this story that I wrote when I was twelve! Way back when I knew nothing about writing or editing or the publishing process, and I was just writing because it made me happy. :)

Hope you enjoy this week’s installment! Let me know what you think in the comments!

red curl

Chapter Three:

The sweet smell of rain and grass envelops me as I squeal and toddle across the field of bright red flowers. She giggles and chases after me, her bright eyes sparkling with laughter. She scoops me up in her arms and spins me around. “Come here, my little rose,” she calls. She collapses onto the bed of flowers beside me and closes her eyes. The rain trickles down my little face as I watch her. Her red curls clung to her cheeks. She opens her mouth and tilts up her head. She’s singing—an old Irish lullaby, her voice softly lilting. My pudgy hands reach out and grasp a flower. I lay it on her stomach and wait. She slowly opens her eyes and smiles at me. “I love you, Rose,” she whispers. Her voice is soft and warm. Just like I remember it.

I woke up to a rosy glow coming from the window. The beams of light fell on the cold bedroom floor. Beside me Annie peacefully dreamed away.

It was the first time I’d been alone since I got to America. I stared at the ceiling in silence.

The remnants of my dream faded away. I desperately searched my mind, longing to remember what she looked like again; what she smelled like; what she sounded like.

I sighed and rolled over, wiping the tears from my eyes. What is the point of dreams? They do nothing except remind you of the things you will never remember.

I shivered and tucked the blanket under my chin.

I tried to remember what it was Mama had said about what happens after you die, but I couldn’t recall ever talking about it.

Where was she? Floating around in some distant land on a little cloud; or lying under the ground somewhere?

My mouth made some kind of strangled sigh that made Annie roll over. Her long eyelashes cast shadows on her pale cheeks; her lips tilted in a smile. She mumbled something in her sleep.

I rolled my eyes. What are you thinking, Rose? You know there’s not a God. I crossed my arms and twisted up my lip. I refused to believe a so-called “loving” person would let children be made orphans and parents be made childless.

I grunted again. Annie wiped her nose drowsily. My bitter thoughts slowly seeped away.

It’s such a shame to have to awaken peaceful souls and make them face reality.

“Good morning, Annie,” I whispered. “Wake up.”

Annie rustled and yawned. “Rose?” Her voice was soft and sleepy. She paused thoughtfully. “Why does my face feel warm and fuzzy? The rest of me’s so cold.”

I looked at the beams of sunlight spreading colorful rays all over the room. “You’re probably getting that heat from the sun. It looks beautiful.”

“Oh,” Annie climbed out of bed and felt her way to the window. She touched the glass. I pulled my knees up to my chest and watched her. “It is warm,” she said, pausing. “Rose, what does it look like? Is there a rainbow in this room?”

I started. Slowly, I put my knees down and tried to think of what to say. “Well, I’m not really good at describing things. You probably wouldn’t like it.” I sighed. Pathetic.

Annie frowned. “Please try.”

I bit my lip. “Well, a rainbow really isn’t a certain color or mood. It’s lots of colors, so it has lots of moods.” So far, so good. “It’s warm, like a fire, but it’s also cool like winter.” I paused, wondering whether to go on. “I’d like to think of a rainbow as looking like something different, though. To me it feels like love. Like yours and Jenny and Patrick’s love, and my love, and Aunt Catherine’s love. That’s what rainbows feel like, which is even more important then how they look.” My eyes welled up with tears. I was thankful Annie couldn’t see them.

She walked across the room and touched my cheek. Could she feel the wetness? “Thank you, Rose,” she said sweetly before she kissed me and felt her way out of the room.

I stared at the doorway long after she’d left.

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“Who are you?” The small man squinted at me and Jenny. His breeches were ill-fitting and his vest was halfway opened. With every word he spoke spit flew in our faces.

I winced and wiped it off my cheek. How pleasant. “As I said, I’m Rosalyn Keegan, and this is Jenny Moore. We just arrived from Ireland yesterday.” I folded my hands and tried to look professional.

Mr. Jenkins grunted. “Of courthe. I could tell that the moment you opened your mouths.” He bent over his paperwork. “I thuppose you want a job, eh? Well, thith is the plathe to be if you’re Irith or black. I thuppose I’ll give you the thpoths.” He looked up and stared into my eyes. “You’ll haf to thtart tomorrow.”

What? I bit my lip and kept my hands from wiping the spit off my forehead. “We’re available any time, sir.”

“Good,” Mr. Jenkins had a hungry look in his beady eyes. “Yeth, very good.” He rubbed his hands together greedily. “You’ll need to work thwelve hourths a day, of courth, not counting your one hour lunch break from 12:00 to 1:00.”

“Of course,” Jenny said.

“Good. I’ll thee you two at 7:00 thomorrow morning.” The small man leaned back in his chair. “You are dithmithed.”

I smiled victoriously and marched out the door. Thank you!

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 “Rose, wake up!” Jenny threw up the covers and shook me hard. “Rose, it’s almost 6:30. Wake up or we’re going to be late!”

“What?” I sat up with a start, and managed to knock Jenny in the head. Ugh. I lay back down.

“Ouch! Be careful where you swing that thing.” Jenny rubbed her forehead, a hint of a smile on her lips.

“Jenny! Why didn’t you get me up earlier?!” I moaned.

“I tried to, but you sleep like a log.” Jenny laughed and smoothed down her dress.

Ugh. She must have gotten up thirty minutes ago.

Jenny smiled and sashayed to the wardrobe. “What do you wish to wear today, m’lady? Shall we go with the pauper style?”

 I jumped out of bed and threw on a calico dress. “Help me button it!” My voice was half sleepy and half impatient. I can’t believe this. We can’t be late on our first day!

Jenny fumbled over the little buttons on the faded blue dress. “Be patient; I can’t when you’re so jittery,” she laughed, slapping my arm lightly.

“Sorry, but you’ve got to hurry. I can’t imagine what Mr. Jenkins will do to us if we’re late!” I tapped my foot. Oh, come on, Jenny. “Can’t you go any faster?”

Jenny turned me around and smirked. “Relax, Rose. We’ll get there on time.” She buttoned the top of the dress and patted my back. “And a good word never broke a tooth,” she added sternly.

“Thanks for helping me,” I sheepishly offered.

“You’re welcome. Now pull back your hair.” Jenny handed me a ribbon and opened the door. I smiled and pulled the comb through my tangled red locks.

“Are you two leaving?” I turned to see Annie sitting up in bed. Her hair was ruffled but she smiled slightly.

“Oh, good morning.” Jenny said softly. “You’re up early.”

“You woke me up by accident.”

“Sorry,” I cringed. “We have to leave, though. The factory opens in twenty minutes.”

“Oh. Have a good first day.” Annie smiled.

 *

“You girlth will be working right here.”

I dodged the rain of spit and tried to smile.

“Thith ith Ida Mann.” Mr. Jenkins grabbed the shoulder of a young colored girl, who looked about my age. “She’ll sthow you how the mathines operate. Ida,” Mr. Jenkins motioned to us and walked away.

“Hello, I’m Rosalyn Keegan and this is Jenny Moore. We’re from Ireland.” I smiled warmly.

“I know.” Ida said shortly, turning to the machine. “This is pretty simple. All you have to do is this.” Her hands wove the thread so quickly that all I could do was blink.

I tried to ignore her frosty glare and think positively. Oh, well, I’m sure I’ll get it sooner or later.

“Um, could you show us that again?” Jenny peered at the machine.

“What are you-blind?” Ida pouted.

I felt my blood heat up. What’s wrong with her? I frowned. She looked like one of the orphans in Ireland last summer who had been stung by a bee and someone asked her how she felt.

“There.” Ida wiped her hands on her dress when she finished. “Now that was the last time I’m going to show you. If you have any questions, ask someone else.” She turned on her heel and stomped away.

I stared at the loom with no idea what to do. This may be harder than I thought.

*

I sat on the windowsill and gazed outside. It had been such a long day.

“Rose, are your arms sore?” Jenny lay on my bed, staring up at the ceiling.

“Hmm?” I turned and smiled. “No, I’m perfect, as always.”

“You mean you’re not achy at all?”

“Of course not.” I rubbed my arm unconsciously. I looked down and quickly folded my hands.

“Lucky.” Jenny massaged the small of her back. “I feel like I got caught in a water mill and have been turning around and around between bars all day.” She laughed and limped over to where I sat. “What are you looking at?”

I motioned out the window. The moon hung from the sky like a big white gumdrop shining above us, peering through the storm clouds. Huge, dark buildings loomed in the distance. Smoke rolled out of chimney tops. Rain poured down, illuminated by the street lights below.

I sighed. “America. It’s so big, isn’t it? Aunt Catherine said that America is massive compared to Ireland.” I shivered. “It’s scary to think about it. This country goes on forever while Ireland seems so small and unimportant compared to it.”

Jenny sat down beside me. “It makes you feel humble. God made this world so huge but compared to it we’re tiny specks of dust. Someday we’ll die, and this world will go on; but no one will remember us.”

We looked at each other and I could feel teardrops forming in my eyes.  This isn’t like me. I looked away.

“Rose,” Jenny whispered, “I don’t know if now is the perfect time…but, are you ready to tell me about how your parents died?”

I was almost ready to say no. But the tightness in my chest stopped me. I squinted to find the big sea. It was no more than a thin line in the distance. I touched the windowpane. Icy cold. I pulled my fingers away. “There’s not much to say.” My voice was little more than a whisper. “My mother was a wealthy young lady. My father was a shoe maker. They fell in love, despite her parents’ wishes. Then she ran away with him. Her family disowned her.” I followed a raindrop with my finger. “My mother found out she was pregnant. My father left her. We lived alone until I was four. Then she died. Just like that, she was gone.” I let my hand fall. “I wasn’t even there. I don’t even know how she died. The people from the orphanage came to get me the next day, after my grandparents refused me.”

Jenny was silent. Well, she coughed a little.

I fought the tears running threatening to run down my cheeks. “I don’t remember her at all.” My voice broke.

Jenny reached out to touch my hand.

I ducked my head and wiped my eyes. “When I was a child,” I said softly, laughing a little. “I had a quite romantic attachment to this battered old grave in the orphanage’s cemetery, under a weeping willow tree. It must have been decades old: weathered and desolate, with no name or date written on its surface.” I smiled at the memory. “I’d dress in my black cotton dress and bring a pure white rose to adorn it with. And I’d cry and pray over the body within until my face was red and soggy.” I looked down. “In my dreams, that body always belonged to my mother,” I whispered.

“Was she a Christian?” Jenny said suddenly.

“What?”

“Was she a Christian? Aunt Catherine’s a Christian. She says that when they die they go to heaven.” Jenny looked genuinely curious, not at all like she was purposefully trying to provoke me.

I tried to hide the bitterness in my voice. “My mother was not a Christian.” I don’t think. “And neither am I. I don’t believe in God.” I felt a strangled wave of hot anger flash through me. “And if He is I hate him!” I burst out, choking down my tears.

“Lady, Honey…” Aunt Catherine stopped in the doorway. She glanced at the two of us and seemed to reconsider what she was about to say.

“Maybe I’d better go get the others and we’ll all say a prayer together before we go to bed.” She turned on her heel and left. “Sugar! Sweet pea!”

I bit my lip, ashamed of the words I’d blurted out. I didn’t really hate God, did I? I lifted my chin. No, because there is no God to hate.

Jenny smiled and pressed my hand. “I won’t tell anyone, Rose.”

About my parents or my problems? “Thank you.” I self-consciously rubbed my puffy eyes. “Why, look at us! Aunt Catherine must think we’re crazy.”

“You are crazy!”

I nudged her playfully, and she nudged me back.

Aunt Catherine came into the room again with Pattie and Annie. “Children,” she reprimanded with mock seriousness. “Let us settle down and pray.”

We soberly sat up, folded our hands, and bowed our heads. “Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

I looked around. Jenny was right about the Moores being a religious family. Even Annie and Pattie sat perfectly still, heads bowed and eyes closed. I looked down guiltily and closed my eyes.

“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

To be continued…


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