Alice: Chapter 2: Love Happens


Chapter 2:

When Alice had been back at Ingleside for a week, it was as though she had never been away. The household adjusted itself to her rhythms gratefully – things had a tendency to seem stale and a bit lackluster whenever she was away. Every morning she rose early and donned a crisp white shirt and the trousers that made her grandfather look slightly disapprovingly at her, tucked her blueprint case under her arm, and set off for White Sands in the little red coupe that had been a graduation present to herself. Every evening, she came home full of stories about the building site, the work going on at the new hotel, the plans she had for the cunning little series of windows in the main dining room, each shaped like a sand-dollar, with grilles forming the star-shaped pattern in the middle. She sang while she set the table for supper, and after the dishes had been cleared and were drying on the drainboard, she joined her grandparents on the verandah. Once these evenings had been devoted to friendly gossip, but now the radio, pulled up to the window, captivated them all with war news.

Alice hugged her slim knees to her chest and listened to the wash of familiar names and places of her youth – mourned the fates of the cities she had visited with her grandfather – felt the torment in the land of her birth and childhood. She thought often of her parents those nights, as she heard fragments of angry speeches in German and remembered half-forgotten words and phrases in her native tongue. It was strange to think that without the first war, she herself would never have come to exist. What monumental changes would be brought into her life if it all happened over again?

Just as his mother had predicted, Gilbert Ford went overseas in August. The clan had a send-off for him in Rainbow Valley on the night before he left. Rilla Ford bore the parting bravely, but after the train had turned the bend and disappeared from sight of the Glen St. Mary station, she crumpled into a little heap against her husband’s chest. Back at the House of Dreams, she took to her bed, wan and white with the strain of it all, and did not leave it for many days.

Alice went up to visit her one perfect afternoon – so perfect that it’s perfection hurt. She was shocked to find her young, girlish aunt looking suddenly gaunt and old. Rilla sat up from her pillows to clasp Alice’s callused and ink-stained hand with her own elegantly manicured one. There was a desperate sort of fever in her eyes.

“Joy – you can tell me if he’ll come back – can’t you? You have – presentiments – as Walter did. I know you do. Can’t you look – look somehow – and tell me: Will my boy come back to me?”

Alice squeezed her cold fingertips, her heart breaking. “Oh, Aunt Rilla – it doesn’t work that way, I’m afraid. I wish it did – but it doesn’t. And besides – I haven’t had a ‘vision’ in years. I think I’ve grown out of the habit of it. But I know Gilbert will come back – I know he’ll be fine – I know it, deep in my heart.”

Rilla looked at the face of the girl who was her beloved Walter’s daughter. Walter – Walter! What his loss had done to her – done to them all! And how his eyes were pleading with her in Alice’s face. Would she forget the old vow she had made in Rainbow Valley, all those years ago? With a great effort, she regained a little of her composure and squeezed Alice’s hand back – weakly – but it was all the strength she could manage in the moment.

“Yes,” she said, making an effort to keep her voice even around the lump in her throat. “I’m being quite silly. Of course – of course you can’t know. None of us can. We can only try to ‘keep the faith’ to the best of our abilities. I’m sorry, Alice, darling. You are – a dear – to come and sit with me. It helps – it helps more than you’d think.”

Something else that helped was Jims Anderson’s presence at the House of Dreams. His trial over, he had taken a leave of absence from his firm, and come to spend a whole three weeks with his ‘Mother Rilla.’ In town, he might be James K. Anderson, rising star of one of the province’s premier law firms – but in the Glen he was again the country boy he had been in his youth. He laid off his tailored suits for swim trunks, and within days, his skin was tanned, and his golden hair was lightened by the sun. His movements seemed loose and easy and his laugh was infectious. Slowly but surely, the tight lines of worry around Rilla’s dented-lipped mouth began to ease away.

Alice was also glad for his presence. It was sweet to be back home, but she had been feeling on the verge of loneliness until Jims arrived. Aunt Di and Uncle Paul and Charlie were still in Boston – Walt was away at an artist’s colony for a month. When he was home, there was a shield of pensiveness around him that Alice knew she must not try to penetrate. Cissy was doing a course in emergency nursing at the hospital in Bright River, and they worked her so hard when she was there that on the weekends she was a yawning mess, when she wasn’t curled up somewhere, catching up on sleep. With Jims around, the pale blue that had threatened to envelope Alice dissipated entirely. A crack opened and widened, and sunlight poured in.

He and Alice took long rambles in the evenings after she returned from White Sands for the day. In matching dungarees, they would pack a hamper with a supper of sandwiches and lemonade and grab their fishing poles, and cycle to the Glen Pond. Or they would hike to the top of the Harbor Light and watch the sun dip down into the Gulf. Or else wend their way down Rainbow Valley, and spend the gloaming hour sprawled in the whispering caraway at the Old Bailey House, talking, as the last of the day glinted off of the old wavery-glassed windows.  

And in those times together, there might not be a war at all. For they never talked of it, Alice and Jims. There was enough of that in the other hours of the day. Instead, they discussed books – and music – and films, and which were their favorites. Jims had seen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington five times, and enjoyed it more and more each time. Alice was addicted to the Thin Man movies, and especially admired the snappy Myrna Loy. Jims had not seen Another Thin Man yet – and so one night they drove into the Glen in Alice’s coupe, with the top down, and saw it at Flagg’s cinema.

Jims told her tidbits about the cases he was working on, and Alice listened eagerly. When he spoke of his work, his brown eyes grew large and his voice impassioned, and Alice knew that the war-baby of years past had finally ‘made something’ of himself, as he always vowed he would. When Jims had talked himself out, Alice told him of the plans for the new hotel – and the plans she had for it, if only she was allowed to make all of the decisions herself.

“A hotel should feel homey – not cold and impersonal. How much you enjoy a place is just as much a function of how you feel when you’re there as what you do when you’re there. I’d like to put in a lot of nooks and crannies – little window seats and alcoves, stocked with books and cushions, where you can lose yourself in an hour of looking out at the sea. But the owners want it as grand as they can get it – marble this and gold-plated that. Ah, well!”

“You should build your own hotel, someday,” Jims said, stretching his long legs out in front of him and leaning back against the Bailey House stoop to look up at the violet-colored clouds scuttling by overhead.

“I think this might be my last one,” Alice admitted. “You see – a hotel isn’t a home, Jims, no matter how homey it might be. I’d much rather put my efforts into designing a place that will hold memories – not transient ones, but a lifetime’s worth. Perhaps when this project is over, I’ll seek one out.”

“I’d like to have you design a house for me, someday,” Jims said. “I never had one of my own, and I’d like to. I lived at Ingleside on charity – they loved me, yes, but it was charity all the same. And dad’s cottage was never a home for me. Though I love the House of Dreams, it will never be mine, not the way it is Gil’s and Jack’s and Oliver’s.” His strong voice betrayed him a bit when he finished, “I’d like to have a home of my own – someday.”

Alice covered his brown paw with her slim hand. “I will build you a grand home, someday, Jims – and then I’ll build myself one, exactly one smidge grander.”

Jims grinned and reached over to yank her pony-tail – and let his hand linger on the small of her back for just a moment longer.

And so in this way, the summer passed away into fall.

____________

In September, Persis Ford married Shirley Blythe in the garden of the House of Dreams, where her parents had plighted their troth almost fifty years before. The whole thing was gotten together rather quickly (before Persis had a chance to change her mind, Aunt Di said, a bit cuttingly), but the general air of thought regarding the marriage was that it had been a long time coming.

Alice and Cissy were Persis’ bridesmaids, but instead of wearing matching colors, Persis insisted they pick their own gowns. She had the foresight to know that this might be the last new dress the girls’ had for the duration of the war, and wanted them to have something of their choosing. So it came to pass that Cissy outfitted herself in pale blue crepe, and Alice accentuated her dark beauty with a forest green rayon sheath that hugged her curves in a most alluring way. There was a bit of a murmur over her choice – green was an unlucky color for a wedding and luck was at a premium these days – but once the folks actually saw Alice in her dress, the protests fell away.

“Can that be our Alice?” wondered Uncle Jem, as he watched her turn this way and that as Aunt Una pinned her hem before the Ingleside hearth. “That movie star, there? I’d better put myself on detail during the wedding fete, Faith – she’ll be fighting the boys off with a stick in that.”

For her part, Alice was not so sure. “This is my ‘three times a bridesmaid,’” she confessed to Cissy, laughingly, as they worked on mixing ingredients for the wedding cake in the Ingleside kitchen. “There was Aunt Di’s wedding – and Katy Murray’s, last summer – and you know the old saying as well as I do. But I promised Aunt Persis way back when that I’d stand up for her if she ever made up her mind to marry Uncle Shirley, and I must keep my word, even if it means dooming myself to old maidenhood.”

The wedding went off without a hitch – Shirley Blythe looked like to burst from pride as the fair Persis promised to ‘love and honor and obey’ – “but never, ever milk a cow!”— and the party in the garden after the ceremony was scented with the spice of red roses in the bouquet that little roly-poly Rosie Blythe plucked from the air after Aunt Persis (now in her dove gray traveling suit) tossed up on her way to the car that would take the newlyweds back to Avonlea and Green Gables. Alice had not even tried to join the throng to catch it. Instead she hung back by the fence, and watched the festivities half-hidden in the gloom of a copse of spruce, a little smile just touching her lips.

Jims Anderson found her there – stood for a moment out of sight, and watched her. In her green dress and with her dark hair, she blended with the trees – only the long line of her arms and throat showed white, and her shining pale face above that. Without quite knowing what he would do before he did it, he crossed to her, and found the curve of her hip with his hand. And then, drawing her close, he kissed her. Not at all to his surprise, he found Alice kissing him back.

She drew away from him and said, laughingly, “That wasn’t moonlight.” Her eyes were twin stars above her shy red mouth.

Jims kissed her again, and Alice threw her hands behind his head to pull him close –hands that were holding her own bouquet, made up of sweet new roses of the palest pink – love hopeful, and expectant.  
3 Responses
  1. Louise Bates Says:

    I'm loving these, Cathy! It's been so long since I read the original trilogy that I can't remember how much of this is the same as before, and how much is new, but that's fine, because it ALL seems new to me, whether it is or not.

    I love, love, love your Alice. She is such a well-defined personality, without ever being overstated or overdone.

    I'm so excited that you found this and are working on it again! I've definitely decided: I'm rewriting the three Meg stories (probably turn them into four, given how long WMT ran) as original fic, and going to self-publish them. Woo-hoo! Thanks for your recent reviews of WMT; they're definitely stirring up my writing spirit.


  2. Cath Says:

    YAY for Meggie and yay for self-publishing! That is very exciting. Do you have any idea of things you might change? Will you post here when you've got your first few chappies together?

    So far this story is the same in that Jims and Alice are falling in love and that Aunt Persis married Uncle Shirley. I also made Alice and Bruce's friendship a little distant, but that's about it. I wanted Alice to have a career path, so I made her an architect based on her love of geometry in the first fic. But I really have no idea where I will go from there. I am letting it come to me. :)

    Thank you for your compliments. I like Alice a lot, too. I never loved her like Cecilia, but I think I am falling for her a little bit, now. I think it's fun that she's more of a libertine and free spirit than my other characters. I can see it getting her in trouble down the road.


  3. Louise Bates Says:

    I read through all of In the Morning this past week (one decent thing about being so sick, lots of time for reading), and so now I'm even more excited to see what direction you take this one in. It's funny; I remember being a huge Alice/Bruce shipper the first time around; reading it this time, Bruce really did strike me as much more of a Dean Priest type, and now I'm firmly Team Alice/Jims. Isn't it odd how much we can change in just a few years?

    With Meg, I think I'll mostly just try to go more in depth with the best plot points, and prune out the fluff. I had a tendency (still do, but it was worse back then) to skirt my characters around the bad stuff without ever letting it submerge them ... tension might build for a chapter or two, and then diffuse without there ever being a bang. I want more bang! I also definitely plan on having Meg be less dithery about Hawk, in WMT. I have no idea why I stretched that relationship out as long as I did, but there was absolutely no logical reason for it to go on after she realized he was stifling her to death.