Marie Bostwick delivers a captivating novel of soul mates discovering each other as the country faces its greatest challenge. . . Morgan Glennon's destiny points straight up into Oklahoma's clear, blue sky. It's been that way since he was four years old, imagining the famous flier father he's never met. Morgan leaves college to enlist as a Navy pilot, and his whole world suddenly changes when America goes to war. Watching his friends fall in battle, robs Morgan of the joy he always felt in the air. It will take one very unusual woman to help him get it back. . . Georgia Jean Carter learned early never to rely on a man for anything but trouble. Airplanes are different: they take a girl places most boyfriends can't. Remarkably, the war makes it possible for Georgia to do her part as a pilot. Flying with the WASPs brings a special sense of belonging--yet there's something missing that Georgia doesn't recognize until a brief encounter sets her dreaming about a young flyboy she barely knows. . . Praise for Marie Bostwick and Fields of Gold "A touching story." --Patricia Gaffney "Captivating and hauntingly beautiful. . .a true gem." --Romantic Times, 4 ½ stars "A gripping, heartwarming story." --Dorothy Garlock on Fields of Gold
Related collections and offers
|Product dimensions:||5.55(w) x 8.26(h) x 1.03(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
On Wings of the Morning
By MARIE BOSTWICK
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Marie Bostwick Skinner
All right reserved.
There was a patch of dried blood stuck in the crease where my upper lip met the lower. I squashed my face up and felt the blood crack into a dozen dry little flakes. I rubbed them off with my hand, held my palm open, and watched the wind grab hold of the rusty flecks and suck them into a passing dust cloud. By nightfall those dried-up blood slivers would most likely be blown into the next county, but the rest of the evidence would be harder to conceal.
I'd used the sleeve of my shirt to sop up the blood that had spurted from my nose where Johnny McCurdle's elbow had clipped me as I'd wrestled him to the ground. I knew by tomorrow morning he'd be telling everybody that he'd broken my nose, but I wasn't worried about that. There'd been plenty of witnesses to the fight, and they'd be more than ready to testify to the truth-that Johnny hadn't intentionally been able to land a single punch on my face, that he looked much worse than I did when it was all over, that when he fought he closed his eyes and flailed his arms like a girl, and that, being frustrated in his effort to connect his fists with any vulnerable part of my anatomy, he'd kicked me in the shins with those hard, pointy-toed cowboy boots he always wore, which, in the unwritten rules of schoolyard fisticuffs, is just flat bush-league.
No, I wasn't worried about my reputation suffering after my fight with Johnny, but I was worried about how I was going to keep the news from getting to Mama. The blood from my nose had spread and bloomed into a good-sized stain on the sleeve of my shirt. On the walk home from school, I'd scuttled down the dirty banks of the irrigation ditch that ran parallel to Grandpa's parched wheat fields, hoping to find some water to wash out my shirt. It was spring, and the trench should have been home to a fresh and flowing stream, but this was the Oklahoma panhandle in the third year of what would be a nearly ten-year drought, and there was barely a trickle of water to be found at the bottom of the ditch. The soil rising up from the streambed had dried and cracked into a pattern of uneven diamond shapes, like the skin on an alligator's back, and the stingy rivulet of water that dribbled past my feet was so thick and muddy that washing with it would probably have left my shirt dirtier than it had been to start with. I had no choice; I'd have to walk home and get myself cleaned up at the pump in the barnyard before my mother could spot me and start asking questions.
The pump handle squeaked in protest as I wrenched it up and down, trying to bring forth the flow of water. After some effort the old pump complied, but even so, the stream that poured from the spout was slow, and I knew that our well was getting low. I took off my shirt, squatted down next to the pump, and filled a bucket with water before shutting off the spout. In years past I'd have carelessly let the water run out onto the ground, but even at the age of ten, I knew that water in a drought is precious and mustn't be wasted. I plunged my shirt into the bucket and scrubbed the stain by rubbing one piece of fabric against another, the way I'd seen Mama do, and noted with some satisfaction that the combination of cold water and elbow grease was doing the trick; the bloodstain was fading.
"Now that your shirt's clean, have you thought about how you're going to get it dry before your mother sees it?" The sound of my grandfather's amused Irish brogue startled me, and I jumped.
"Geez, Papaw! You don't need to sneak up on a guy like that. I almost tipped the bucket over."
"Sorry, Morgan." He grinned, and the corners of his eyes drew up like folds in a paper fan. "I whistled to you from the hog pen, but I don't think you heard me. You were pretty intent on doing your laundry." He nodded at my sodden shirt that dripped a trail of water, streaming a dark stripe over the thirsty soil.
Papaw took a step and leaned down to get a closer look at me. His face grew solemn. "That lip is pretty swollen. Your nose doesn't look any too good, either."
For a moment I considered telling him that I'd fallen or been beaned by a wild pitch during a game of baseball, but I didn't want to lie to my grandfather. Papaw was my best friend, even if he was a grown-up. I didn't say anything. His eyes bore into me, questioning.
Finally, he drew his eyebrows up and smiled. "So, how does the other fella look?"
I grinned. "Not too good. Two black eyes and a split lip."
"Well, I don't doubt but he deserved it," Papaw said evenly and paused for a moment. "Did he deserve it?"
I thought about Johnny McCurdle and the things he'd said about me. About me not having a father. That wasn't anything new. I'd endured that kind of schoolyard taunting for as long as I could remember. They could say anything they wanted about me and I'd just shrug it off or turn the joke on them. In Johnny's case that wasn't too hard. He had ears that stuck out like open doors on a car, so all I had to do was call him "fender face" and that would set all the other kids to laughing. Suddenly Johnny himself would be the butt of the joke, surrounded by jeering classmates, coloring with anger and embarrassment to the tips of his car-door ears while I slipped away from the crowd unnoticed. Much as I disliked Johnny, always had, I didn't enjoy doing this. I only picked on him when he started it. He was mean, it was true, but more than that, he was just not too bright. By making fun of me he was trying to get a little attention for himself, and he always seemed a little perplexed when his plans turned around on him. Part of me felt sorry for him. I suppose that's why I'd never fought him-not until that day.
It was one thing to call me names and quite another to bring my mother into it. That day he had. He'd called Mama a name so bad that I didn't really know what it meant, and I bet Johnny didn't, either. Probably he'd heard it from his older brothers, but definitions aside, I got his general drift. The sneer on his ugly face told me of his intent, and the shocked gasps from some of the older girls who stood nearby let me know that this was a word that went far, far beyond the normal range of schoolyard insults. Nobody could talk about my mother like that and get away with it. "He deserved it," I muttered darkly and felt my hand involuntarily ball up into a fist. If Johnny had been standing there I'd have beaten him a second time.
"Said something about your mother, did he?" Papaw's eyes were dark.
"Did what I had to do, Papaw."
He took in a deep breath and nodded. I knew that was all the explanation he required. He wouldn't ask me any more questions.
Living with three women in our house-Mama, Grandma, and Aunt Ruby, who wasn't my aunt at all but Mama's best friend who lived with us-I sometimes felt like I was in danger of drowning in a flood of chintz and feminine fussing. The house was bursting with women, but the barn and barnyard, that was our world, mine and Papaw's-a world of men where people didn't ask endless questions, or go to pieces over the sight of a little blood, where it was understood that sometimes a man had to do what a man had to do, and where sometimes a simple nod of the head was as good as an hour's conversation. What would I have done without Papaw? I knew I could have told him anything, but I also knew I didn't have to-he understood.
"I guess we'd better decide what you're going to tell your mother. Clean shirt or no, she's going to know that something happened. You're a sight, lad." Papaw sucked on his teeth thoughtfully, and then he walked over near the barn door and picked up a rake that was resting against the wall. He brought the rake back to where I was standing and thunked me-squarely, but not too hard-on the head with the wooden handle.
"Hey!" I protested. "What was that for?"
"If your mother asks what happened to you, you can say that you got hit with a rake while you were out helping me, and it won't be a lie."
"You mean like I accidentally stepped on the tines and the handle flew up and whacked me on the face?"
Papaw nodded. "No need to go into details, but, yes, that's the general idea."
"She's not gonna buy that, Papaw. Mama is way too smart to fall for a story like that. We've got to come up with something better."
"Listen to me, Morgan. Don't start telling lies to your mother. If you tell one lie, you're bound to have to start telling others just to cover up the first one. After a while it gets to be a habit."
"But, isn't this the same thing? I might not be exactly lying to her, but I'm trying to keep something from her."
"No." Papaw shook his head. "We're not trying to keep something from her. We're trying to protect her from something that would only cause her worry and grief. She's had enough of that in her life. If you'll just tell her your story without offering too many details, she'll leave you be. You'll see."
Papaw was smart about people, I knew, but I couldn't imagine that Mama would let this slide so easily. Mama wasn't a big talker herself, but she was interested in everything that happened to me. Almost every afternoon of my life, once I'd finished my chores, was spent sitting on the floor next to Mama while she sat sewing at her quilt frame or tracing around templates for quilt blocks.
When it came to quilt-making, Mama was an artist. She made quilts that looked like paintings, and until the Depression was in full swing and cash was so scarce, people waited months and paid top dollar for the privilege of owning one of Mama's creations. She had more orders than she could handle and was often weeks behind in her work, but those after-school chats were our special time together. She always had time to listen to me jabber away about school, my teachers, my friends, anything that might be on my mind. And the thing is, she didn't just murmur absentmindedly, pretending to listen while rocking her needle up and down through the fabric, making those tiny, absolutely even stitches she was famous for. She truly listened. She asked just the right question at just the right moment. She made me feel important-as though whatever I had to say was worth listening to. Mama knew me inside and out. She wasn't going to fall for any half-baked explanations about the source and nature of my injury. Papaw read the doubt on my face.
"Morgan, your mother is no fool. Deep in her heart, she's going to know there is more to the story than you're sharing, but she's not going to press you about it. She can't change the past. Not hers. Not yours. When you can't fix a problem, sometimes it's easier to pretend there isn't one. Know what I mean?"
I looked at him blankly.
"Never mind. You'll understand when you're older. Your mother is a good woman, son. No matter what anyone says, your mother is a good woman."
"I know that." It was the closest we'd ever come to talking about my mother and, more importantly, my father. Suddenly it dawned on me that Papaw knew who he was-his name, what he looked like, maybe even where he lived and why he wasn't here with me. Papaw knew everything, and I came that close to asking him. My mouth opened, and the question formed on my lips. "Papaw," I began, but that was as far as I got. My grandfather could read the question in my eyes, knew what I wanted to ask before I could ask it, and in his eyes I could read, just as clearly, that he wouldn't give me an answer. He couldn't. That was Mama's secret, and as long as she kept silent, we'd all have to.
Papaw dropped a big, calloused hand on my shoulder. "I've got to finish fixing that wobbly board on the hog pen. The sow worked it loose again rubbing up to scratch her back. You pump some fresh water for your chickens and get them back inside for the night. I saw a big black dog skulking around last night. Probably a stray. Might be the same one that got to Thompson's birds last week, so you make sure you shut those hens in good and tight. We've got about an hour to supper. Should be enough time for your shirt to dry."
"Yes, Papaw." I stooped over the bucket to squeeze the last drops of water from my shirt. The water wasn't clean enough to give to the chickens but I could pour it over Aunt Ruby's tomato plants.
Papaw turned and started walking toward the hog pen, but he only got a few steps before he called to me over his shoulder.
"You're a good son." He smiled and kept walking.
I stood up and shook out my shirt. A quick, sharp gust of prairie wind lifted the wet fabric into the air, blowing dust onto the previously clean cloth. I held tight to the sleeves, and the shirt billowed out in front of me like a sail trying to draw me into the breeze, and I wished, for the hundredth time, that I was light enough and free enough to fly.
I've always been a realist. I had to be, because my mother's grip on reality was so tenuous. Someone had to be the grown-up in our family, and by the time I was six years old it was clear to me that Cordelia Carter Boudreaux was not putting in an application for the position.
Cordelia Carter Boudreaux. Lord! How in the world did she ever conjure up a name like that? One thing I'll say for my mother. She had imagination.
Delia had no more claim of descent from New Orleans aristocracy than from the crowned heads of Europe, but it wasn't her style to let something as inconvenient as facts stand in her way. We weren't from anyplace half as romantic as the French Quarter or even the Bayou, just the cracker part of Florida, far from the beach, that humid, bug-infested part tourists never go to unless they accidentally read the map sideways and get themselves lost.
I was the child of a moderately well-to-do, married storekeeper named Earl. He came to visit us on Sundays, bringing bags of groceries. There was always a bit of penny candy tucked in among the oranges, grits, and cans of tuna fish. My mother would give me the sack of lemon drops or sticky caramels and tell me to go outside and play on the tire swing in the yard while she and Uncle Earl talked. She made it clear that I was not to come in the house and bother her until she came to get me or she'd take my candy away. I guess the pull of my sweet tooth was stronger than my curiosity because I never did sneak inside to see what Mama and Uncle Earl were "talking" about. When I was older I pretty well figured it out.
Earl's store was at least three or four miles from our house. I don't know how I figured out the directions, but once I walked there all by myself. How old was I? Four, maybe? Earl gave me an orange Nehi and a ride home in his car. He wasn't mad or anything-in fact, he let me shift the car while he was driving-but he said I shouldn't wander off so far because I might get lost or come across the path of a mean old gator with a hankering for the tender flesh of little girls. When we got to the house he patted me on the head and told Mama to keep a better eye on me next time.
He was always nice to me, and other than cheating on his wife, he didn't seem like a bad man. I'm sure if he'd realized what he was doing before he got himself mixed up with my mother, he'd have thought twice about adultery. Well, he wasn't alone in that. Before Delia was through there were a lot of men who would have said the same thing. They could have formed a club and held meetings.
I don't remember Earl's last name, though I know it wasn't Boudreaux. I do remember that one dry, hot summer day-not a Sunday-he showed up at our house, a little shotgun cottage on the edge of town that was in no better or worse repair than the others on our street, and he was mad as hell. I was sitting cross-legged on chipped-paint floorboards of the front porch, cutting Dolly Dingle paper dolls out of an old copy of the Pictorial Review, so intent on my work that I didn't hear him drive up. Earl stomped hard climbing the porch steps, making my scissors wobble so that poor Dolly lost three fingers on her right hand. I looked up and saw a man's trouser legs and a pair of brogans covered with Florida dust. They looked like someone had sprinkled them with Hershey's cocoa powder.
"Hey, Uncle Earl!" I greeted my father by the only title I knew and waited for him to respond with his usual "Hey, yourself, June Bug!" but he didn't see me. He wrenched open the screen door with such power that I thought he'd pull it off the hinges. He started hollering for my mother even before he got in the house and let the screen door slam closed behind him.
"Jean! Jean! Where the hell are you?"
Her heels made a hurried tap-tapping sound across the wooden floor. She had tiny feet, size fours, which she was very proud of. Even before we moved to the city, my mother wore high heels every day of the week.
"Why, hello, Earl. What a nice surprise. I didn't expect to see you until Sunday. I just made some iced tea. Do you have time for a glass?"
Excerpted from On Wings of the Morning by MARIE BOSTWICK Copyright © 2007 by Marie Bostwick Skinner. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.