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This story spans three generations of women-mother, daughter, and granddaughter. They all three had black hair, emerald green eyes and shared a predisposition for mental illness, which are all hereditary traits. The era that each lived had a significant impact on the problems that they had passed to each other. Mental illness in the 1930s was lumped into one category. Bess, born in this time, was hidden away to conceal her mental illness that was spiraling downward into complete insanity. Jane, Bess's daughter, was born late in Bess's life. Jane's mental illness began to surface as a teenager and brought destructive behavior that affected many people adversely and forever changed their future.
Jane's daughter, Lily, was raised in the shadow of alcohol addiction, child abuse, her mother's partner abuse, and murder. Lily had to pull herself out of dire circumstances while she dealt with the possibility that she might have a form of mental illness. Lily was blessed with an angel in the form of a lonely widow who gave her the tools she needed to lead a normal life. She also experienced the unconditional love and devotion that came from a dog that wandered into her life.
Lily Rose Baxter stepped down off the Grey hound bus in the middle of a small south central US town. She was not sure why she got off the bus here but just went with the fact that it felt right. She also felt the name of the town was a sign. The town was called Eden. She thought that Eden was where she needed to start a new and fulfilling life.
Lily left the bus station, walked a few blocks and was in the middle of the town. There were quaint streets with old, well-kept stores built in the old fashion of towns constructed many years ago. As Lily walked down the main street of town, she passed an aged drugstore on the corner of the intersection. As she peered into the glass windows she noted that there was a bar with a soda dispenser behind it and there were stools along the front of the bar with round, red, plastic seats that, of course, turned all the way around. She passed a five and dime store that she saw had the doors open with various items displayed on the street. There was no one around but she was sure none of the items would be stolen just from the feel of the town.
On the end of the block was a newsstand in the corner store. She saw every kind of the reading material through the open doors. Inside the store there was the musty smell of old and new printed material all mixed together. There was a train depot at the end of Main Street that had been refurbished as a traveler information center. Lily walked into the station and saw it had been decorated with the original décor of the days when train stations were the center of activity with passenger trains coming in and people traveling in great numbers.
Today there was one lady sitting behind a desk in the train station. The lady immediately greeted Lily and asked if she could help her. When the lady walked around the desk, Lily saw that she was about five feet two, slim with short gray hair. She had a lovely face and must have been very attractive when she was young. She appeared to be in good shape for her sixty something years as she stood very straight and walked quickly toward Lily.
Lily said, "Hello, I just got off the bus and I like what I see of the town. I think I would like to stay here a while. I will need a place to rent to see if I would like to make this my home."
The lady responded with, "I know you will love this town. I have lived here my entire life and have loved every minute of it. I am sure you can find a place to rent either an efficiency room or an apartment."
Lily answered, "Good. I don't need much but it needs to be furnished."
The lady looked at the one suitcase that Lily was carrying and said, "I will give you some names and addresses of some nice places to rent. Have a look around while I get that information for you."
Lily looked around the depot and noted that everything was restored and the room felt very cozy and inviting. She could almost feel the hustle and bustle of passengers switching places, either coming or going. She wondered if a passenger train even stopped here anymore. That would be something that Lily would like to research because she wanted to know everything about this possible new home.
Lily took the information that the lady handed her which had several names and addresses written in a careful, strict handwriting. Lily thanked her and then asked, "Which is the closest and how do I get there?"
Lily was led to the front porch of the depot then told, "Just go down this street a few blocks, turn left and cross the railroad tracks. Continue a few blocks and you will find the street names on this list. Nearly all the ones I wrote down are in the same area as I noted you were walking. Good luck and come by to see me again."
Lily thanked her and also promised to let her know what she found. There was not much traffic as she crossed the street and headed in the direction that the woman had directed.
This town, in the days when the train was a popular mode of transportation, was a very busy town. The town also had a major highway that ran right through the center of it. These travel modes were a great source of revenue for many businesses. However an interstate had been built a few years back. The interstate went around the town crossing both ends of it and making an arc around the middle of town. There were two exits off the interstate into town, one on each end. Therefore, most of the restaurants and gas stations had migrated to each end of town. The other factor that killed the middle of town was a Wal Mart superstore built at one of the exits of the interstate. Over time, lots of businesses flocked around that area to soak up the business that Wal Mark generated.
What saved the town from drying up was the poultry business. There was a poultry processing plant that provided numerous jobs and the farmers in the area started raising chickens for the industry. This greatly increased the income for the farmers. In fact, it probably saved many small farms that did not have enough land to support enough cattle to survive. Small farms could do well raising chickens since it did not take as much land to raise chickens. So farmers built chicken houses, used the chicken litter to fertilize their land and could then raise more cattle on less land thanks to the lush grass that grew when fertilizer was applied. Farmers bring in a lot of business because of the need for farm equipment and feed stores. So even though the middle of town was somewhat of a relic, it had survived because many long-time residents of small towns do what they can to support the old, established businesses.
Walking down the side walk, Lily noted the large oak trees that were in each yard and shaded the walkway. The houses had to be at least fifty to sixty years old but most had been well maintained. A few of the large homes had the sad, shabby appearance of being empty. Some of the shingles were missing, some of the paint was peeling, some windows were broken and the porches were sagging. Lily felt it was a shame that majestic homes, which represented a time long gone, were in such disrepair. Lily felt as though she were walking down a fairy tale street, as if she had stepped back in time. She wished she had lived in that period of time and that her life was normal or close to what she thought normal should be. Nice homes, with father, mother and children all happy, doing normal things would be on her wish list and she knew that she would never know that life except for seeing it in the movies. She felt her past had caused her to be damaged.
Lily almost missed the house she was looking for because she was day dreaming, so she had to back pedal a little to find it. There was a black metal fence around the house with a small gate at the front. She opened the gate and slowly walked up the walk, marveling at the beautiful, old house. It was three stories high with a wide porch across the front. There were large, round columns supporting the porch and there were rocking chairs all across the porch with a porch swing on one end. Lily could imagine everyone sitting on the porch after supper just discussing the weather. Lily knocked on the huge front door and waited patiently.
A petite, pretty lady in her mid-forties, answered the door, and said, "Hello, may I help you?"
Lily said, "I was told by the lady at the depot that you might have a room to rent."
The lady responded, "Yes, we do have rooms or they are actually efficiency apartments. Come in and we can discuss this."
Lily followed the lady into the house and noted a big entry way with a two story foyer with a beautiful chandelier hanging in the center of the hall. She saw a staircase was on her left and an opening on the right leading to a room that was used as an office. In the prime of life for this home, this room had probably been the front parlor. The office was furnished with heavy old furniture with a huge oak desk placed in the middle of the room. The lady went behind the desk and motioned for Lily to sit. "My name is Elizabeth Bristow, I am the manager here. We have five different units in this house. Each room has its own bathroom, kitchenette, queen size bed, TV and some living room furniture. We serve the evening meal in the dining room every night but Sunday night. This is included in the monthly rent. I assume you want to be here for at least a month?"
Lily responded, "Yes, I plan to find a job and stay here for a while until I get on my feet and become more familiar with the area."
"Good," Elizabeth said, "We do have a vacancy. I'm not being nosy, but what do you do for a living or what would you like to do?"
Lily smiled, "I went to college in California. I just finished law school and passed the bar exam. I will be looking for something in law."
Elizabeth was a little startled at this information but said, "We don't have any women lawyers in our town at this time. I'm sure a change won't hurt us at all. It may even shake up the "good ole boys" that have been around forever." She laughed and continued, "I, for one, am thrilled to have someone so young and educated move to our town."
Lily smiled and Elizabeth got back to business, "We do ask that you do not have guest overnight; but other than that you can do as you wish. We don't wash your personal laundry but we pick up your linens weekly and wash them for you. I require a month's rent and one extra for a deposit which you will get back when you leave if nothing is damaged."
"That sounds very good. Is there a used car lot near here?" Lily asked.
"Yes, just a few blocks away, stop by here when you are ready to go and I will give you the name and some directions. We do have a cab company in town if you need transportation until you get a car. I hope you enjoy your stay with us and if you have any questions, please, let me know." Elizabeth pulled out an application and gave it to Lily to fill out. Lily filled out the application and Elizabeth gave her a key. "Your room is the first one on the left at the top of the stair."
Lily got the money out of her purse and gave it and the application to Elizabeth. She took the key and said, "Thank you so much. I'll stop by when I get ready to look for a car."
Lily went out of the office and up the stairs. At the top of the stairs, she noted the room and unlocked the door. Entering the room she was pleasantly surprised to find a very nice, clean room. There were two overstuffed chairs to the left of the door that faced a portable television set. A small kitchenette was along the far wall. There were a few cabinets, a sink, a small refrigerator, a microwave and a small table with two chairs. On the far side of the kitchenette, was a queen size bed made up with a beautiful comforter set. There was a small chest of drawers, a night stand and a closet. There was a door beside the bed that led to a clean, small bathroom. Lily thought she could live here very well, and the thought passed through her mind that this was far better than anything she had lived in during her life. In college, she usually had a room in a house where several women and a few men lived. She had to share everything, wait in line for the bathroom, usually ended up cleaning more than anyone and there was never any silence. She always had to study in the library to be able to concentrate. She felt a sense of peace in this apartment and felt safe for the first time in a long time.
Lily set her suitcase down, put her purse on the floor and sat in the nearest chair. She was exhausted. There was a window unit air conditioner in the living area and the room was very cool. Lily laid her head back on the back of the chair and sighed deeply. She closed her eyes and began to drift. Out of the deep shadows of her mind, Lily went back as far as she could remember which was around five years old but these memories were sketchy. When she was six she started to school. She did have happy memories of school and she loved to learn especially when she excelled and she was given special recognition by her teachers. At least in school she felt noticed.
As she recalled her home life, Lily remembered a shabby, two bedroom house. The front screen door and the front steps were broken. She remembered this as she had fallen on the broken steps and her mom had forbidden her from going out the front door again. Thinking of her mother made Lily sad. She knew she should love her mother, as everyone loves their mother, right? And she did love her, but this love was so smothered with a sad history that she could not even say out loud that she loved her. She also knew she needed forgiveness for the things she would like to forget that she had done in her life.
At five years old, Lily thought her mother, Jane, was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. Jane was an attractive woman; slim with a good figure, with shoulder length black hair and she had the most unusual, startling emerald green eyes. Lily favored her mother as she was a beautiful child with black hair and she had inherited the same amazing eyes. Lily remembered asking if anyone else in the family had their eye color. Jane got a sad look on her face and to Lily's surprise spoke quietly to her saying, "Lily, your grandmother, Bess, has these eyes. However, that's all I got from her as she is a wonderful lady and I sure as hell am not any of those things." Lily tried many times to get more information about her grandparents, especially since her grandmother was still alive. However, Jane would not talk about it anymore and told Lily to go to her room.
Jane was not a good housekeeper even though she was home all day. What Jane liked to do was drink liquor and smoke cigarettes. Lily had seen her mother sitting at the kitchen table for hours, with smoke circling her head and a drink on the table. Jane had a trust fund that she could draw from that was set up by her father. This money allowed her to stay at home and not work, but there were strings attached to the money from this fund. For some reason, even though she was able to stay at home to care for Lily, she appeared to not really be interested in Lily and always had a far-away look in her eyes. Many times when they were in the room together, Lily would have to call her mother several times before she would respond. Jane never hugged Lily but just went through the motions of a caretaker. Lily was very lonely and wondered what was wrong with her for her mother to not love her. The fact that Jane never told Lily she loved her, made her feel detached and alone.
Jane never said much about Lily's dad, so Lily did not know anything about him. She would tell Lily her dad had been in the army and was killed overseas. This was one of the lies that Lily told as the truth to anyone who ask, because she didn't know any better.
Jane enjoyed the night life which caused her to have to arrange some alternative care for Lily. Most of time, she would leave Lily with the neighbor whom Lily adored. Lily called the neighbor Granny and would have loved to have her as her real grandmother. Granny played with her, held her and read her books. When Lily was at Granny's house, she felt safe and for a brief time, felt like a normal child. After school Lily would run to Granny's house to relay all the days' events and snack on what Granny had made that day especially for her. Granny never said anything negative about Jane nor asked where she was going. She was afraid that if she made Jane angry, Jane would stop letting Lily come over. Lily was the light of Granny's life and made the days a lot less lonely for both of them.
Granny could tell that Jane had problems. She felt that addiction to alcohol was one of the major issues. Granny also had a feeling Jane had some mental problems. She had witnessed Jane being chatty and up beat then other times she was so depressed she could hardly talk. Granny just told Lily that anytime she needed company, she could come over to her house, whether it was day or night. She knew she could not solve Jane's problems, but at least she could make a safe haven for Lily.
Jane had several men that she dated but none of them lasted very long, especially when they learned Jane had a child. Men, or the kind of men Jane met, were not crazy about a ready-made family. Jane dressed in very sexy clothes and attracted men easily, but there was something odd about her personality. You really couldn't put your finger on it but she seemed to be false, it appeared she was playing a part in a movie. So even though she attracted men, they soon moved on. This was fine with Lily because she liked it to be her and Jane. Lily thought if she was really good and continued to work hard, Jane would come to love her soon. Of course maybe Jane did love her but just didn't know how to show her love for her daughter. There was always a chance that Jane would learn how to be a loving mother over time.
Everything was going along normally, as far as Lily was concerned, when Jake Henson came into their life. That's when everything changed. Life as Lily knew it was about to change and the events would have a long lasting effect on her and Jane.
Excerpted from SHADOWS by Brenda Davis Copyright © 2012 by Brenda Davis. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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