Have you ever done the writing exercise where one person writes a sentence, then hands it to the next person, who adds another sentence, and so on around the circle until you have a few pages of writing?
A couple of weeks ago I started writing paragraphs all of which began with “My name is . . .” One of these ended with the narrator’s statement that she is a murderer.
Alison is writing murder mysteries and asked me to send her that paragraph.
The piece of writing below begins with my paragraph. The rest is Alison’s. I see we are still pretty good at this collaboration business.
A Murderer’s Journal
My name is Talbot Emily Ainsworth. My mother insisted that I be named first for her favorite aunt, Rebecca Talbot who, as I remember her, was a woman unattractive in mind and body but who left my mother all of her considerable fortune. My father, determined not to abandon me with what he felt sounded like a man’s name, found Emily in a book of names, threw it into the mix at the last minute, then persisted in calling me Emily from the day I was born. I will confess that I prefer Talbot, but I adored my father and, until the day he died, I was known as known as Emily Ainsworth, which doesn’t sound bad. It just doesn’t sound like the name of a murderer, which is what I am.
Nor would you know this by my appearance. In my youth I daresay I was attractive –perhaps dangerously so. I was an early bloomer and by the age of thirteen I could have passed for twenty, and I got more than my share of attention for a pretty face coupled with long hair and a shapely figure. Now I am – though I may refuse to admit it – an old woman of eighty, with all the fragility that implies. I’ve become so thin that my veins are apparent beneath my skin and I walk tentatively now, with a cane. I probably look as if a good strong wind would blow me over. As if I couldn’t kill a fly.
But I have killed a man – a man who threatened not only my peace of mind, but the life I had built. He threatened everything and everyone I was prepared to defend with my dying breath. I just didn’t want to die. I made my decision and I’ve never regretted it.
And my cousins, Abbott and Elaine, had helped me. They were both dead now. I still miss them. We have enormously engaging conversations in my mind.
Of course no one in my family knows what I’ve done. I am confident that with my passing my secret will die with me. I am not at all worried about that family tree my granddaughter Rebecca has been researching.
Unless she finds out about Spenser.
Rebecca found her grandmother’s journals one week after the old woman died. They had been rather ingeniously hidden among the boxes stored in the attic. This one box contained antique novels, crumbling with age, that Rebecca’s mother had slated for the trash heap as family members gathered to divide up whatever treasures might remain in the house.
“No one will want those old things,” her mother had said dismissively. She seldom read fiction, and when she did, it was through the convenience of her Amazon kindle. But Rebecca loved history, and she loved to read, and she especially loved the idea of old books, hundreds of years old, surviving to be passed from the hands of one generation to another. She knelt down beside the box and rummaged through, salvaging nearly everything. She stacked the old books in a large pile until she got to the very bottom of the box.
The journal didn’t quite look like a book, but its cover was of lovely old leather and it had obviously been carefully preserved. Rebecca opened to the first page and saw the carefully crafted handwriting. “This journal belongs to Talbot Emily Ainsworth.” She burrowed further into the box and pulled out three similar leather bound volumes. This was a true find, she thought. Surely these journals would contain episodes and fragments of her grandmother’s life that had been long forgotten. They were a key to a better understanding of the old woman she had both loved and feared in equal measure. And they might definitely shed more light on her research.
The journals belonged to her family. Rebecca did not tell her mother she had found them.