Here is another snippet from the forthcoming novel, The Secret of Hill Grove. This bit concerns our girl Rachel Thompson, right after she has an upsetting conversation with a guy from her past, David Dunnigan. If you want to put this in context, you can read the section immediately prior by clicking here.
If anyone in their little gathering had known that Rachel intended to walk home, they would not have allowed it. The night, like almost every December night in Walhonde, was raw and cold and the pavements along the half mile between the restaurant and Rachel’s house were wet in places any icy in others. The shoes she wore that night were strictly for indoors and she knew the character of the part of town she would have to cross to make it to her house and she knew that these days it was no place for a woman like her to be.
Here was the worst of the rot of the little town she loved. In her girlhood these few blocks were little storefronts and even smaller houses, the oldest houses in town, some of them built with lumber from Isaac Martin’s mill for the earliest families of the infant town. Men who might have worked for Martin. In her earliest days the houses were still occupied. Some by the very old and some by newlyweds. There were houses then that did not front on any paved road but lined in neat rows along alleys or lanes leading to the river. Old men in sport coats and flat caps or fedoras walked daily to the corner grocer for the day’s food. This part of town would be busy on summer nights then. Before the advent of air conditioning the old folks would sit on porch swings till the wee hours, smoking and listening to the teenagers playing on the walkways, waiting for a visit from some soldier home on furlough. Busy then. Busy at night. But never a call to the police. The people there never even locked their doors at night.
Now the place was a ruined shell. Only a few of the old houses still stood and only a few of those were legally occupied. Broken windows everywhere and constant calls to the police and EMTs for drug overdoses and assaults.
Rebecca waited for the right moment to escape the banquet room unnoticed and got her coat and purse and walked out onto the stone portico of the restaurant and looked across the little town sitting dark and cold along the river. She thought again about returning to the warmth of the gathering downstairs and she thought of simply going to her car just on the other side of the building. But she wrapped her coat tightly around her and stepped off onto the walkway and then the sidewalk and then crossed the empty street into the old section of town.
Halfway down the first block she saw a man and woman rounding the corner of a tumbledown house. The man was steps ahead of the woman and was looking into the palm of his opened hand. He was moving quickly and the woman, who looked drawn and matted, was trying to catch him. She reached for his arm and he pulled away and she screamed into the night “Robert, give me my pills.”
Rachel walked on, past a house where two men stood on the small stoop before the front door and three cars sat idling outside. The driver of one watched Rachel as she passed. She did not accelerate, but walked on, now passing a two-story, red-brick building that had once been a bank. The building had been converted into four apartments long ago and as she passed she heard the piano of the blind lady who lived in one of the upstairs flats playing “Fairest Lord Jesus” adagio. With only one block to go, Rachel caught the first glimpse of what she had set out to see. At the top of the rise before her was the house, the Phillips’ house, a black outline against the grey sky. And in the distance she could see none of its corrosion but only its perfect form and proportion – the tall turrets, the six chimneys, the tall, arched windows, the sandstone lintels , the balconies. As she escaped the old neighborhood and walked into a newer section of town, she caught a faint hint of woodsmoke and she said to herself then that she was glad she was where she was and not in the warm banquet room with David Dunnigan and all of those who could not see through him. She was glad she was where she was and she determined then and there that there would be no stopping her, that the Phillip’s house would be hers and her life would from now on be marked by a singular effort to restore it to glory and this town to newness of life.