Rebecca grew up in a well-to-do family in Memphis. For years, her father wanted her to marry the son of a family friend, but Rebecca did not love him. No sooner had she turned eighteen, than she became pregnant by Vernon; a man she barely knew. Before she could share the good news with him, he suddenly left Memphis, never to return. Devastated, she had no choice but to give up the baby. Her parents sent her away to hide her growing shame, and arranged for an adoption. But Rebecca couldn’t go through with the adoption, and made her own plans. With her secret secured, she returned home and dutifully married. In time, she gave birth to another child. Life was good, until fate stepped in threatening to expose her secret. A series of events ensued that not only threatened to destroy her family, but also the lives of a family living in the fertile cotton belt of Arkansas.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Inspiration came from travels with my wife. Each time we drove south from St. Louis past the Arkansas cotton fields and then crossed over the Mississippi River at Memphis, the attraction to write the story only intensified.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
It was a combination of using road signs and comical dialogue between my wife and I to help pass the driving time. On each subsequent trip, we made notes and discussed how our main characters would look and what role they would play.
The trip to Charleston was going to take twenty-three hours, with a lot of stops and a change in trains. The train departed the Memphis station on time. Its path eastward, took her away from home, and the Mississippi River. Rebecca looked out the window at the passing countryside with her thoughts on Vernon. She questioned how he could have so easily taken up with another woman. How could he have left Memphis, and not tried to let her know. She wondered where he went to, and rubbed her stomach. She had believed she gave him everything he needed. Even now, she thought, if he boarded the train at the next stop she would leap into his arms. She would tell him the good news about their baby.
“Ma’am can I see your ticket? Excuse me ma’am, I need to see your ticket,” a voice next to her asked.
“Oh! I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention,” she answered.
An older man, wearing a grey uniform and cap, stood beside her as she fumbled with her bag to look for her ticket. He became a little impatient, as he waited for her to produce the fare that proved she could have that seat.
“Here it is sir. Sorry,” and passed him her ticket. He punched a hole in it, and moved on to the next passenger. She heard him bellow again, “Tickets! Tickets please!” Rebecca tried to make herself comfortable for the long ride ahead and managed to fall asleep.
Several hours later, she awoke and went to the ladies room to freshen herself. On the return trip to her seat, she saw a man from the back that looked like Robert. Her heart raced a little, because she hoped it was him. She was ready to see a friendly face. When she got to his side however, she saw that it was someone else with a little girl leaning against him. Both were asleep. She stood there a few seconds watching them, and then returned to her own seat.
Pretty soon, a man walked through their cabin; he was selling drinks and sandwiches. She stopped him, and ordered a soda. She was hungry, and thankful that Margaret had prepared for her a small bag of food to go with her drink. It wasn’t the best meal she ever had, but it tasted good, and reminded her of home. A home which now seemed so far away.
“Nashville, next stop,” boomed the grey-suited man.
Rebecca looked out the window to see the approaching city. Nineteen hours to go she thought. She watched as a new group of travelers entered the cabin, and took their seats. A little old lady took up the position opposite from where Rebecca sat, and settled in. “Hi, my name is Gladys. What’s yours?” she inquired.
“I’m Rebecca,” she replied.
“Rebecca, nice to meet you dear. Mind if I smoke?”
“Not at all.”
The old woman lit up a cigarette, and blew out smoke rings. It reminded her of the smoke rings that Vernon used to blow.
“A bad habit I know, but I’m an old woman. Who cares!
Where are you headed little girl?” she asked, as she tucked her cigarette pack into her handbag.
“Charleston. And you?”
“Next big stop. Atlanta. My son lives there. He invited me to stay with him for a while. Lost my husband a few months ago, and he thinks I need company. I’m okay with it though. My husband was sick for a while, so I expected he was going to visit Saint Peter. I’m just humoring my son; I think it was harder on him than me. How about you? You seem awfully young to be traveling by yourself.”
“Going to see my aunt. I’m supposed to be going to finishing school there.”
“Ah yes, finishing school,” mused the old woman, “where a young, southern gal learns to be a housewife. I know all about it. It’s a bunch of hooey if you ask me,” and she blew another smoke ring.
“You’re a lot different than the women I grew up around,” said Rebecca.
“Honey, I’ve seen it all. And, I know it all. Just by looking at you, and by the way you talk, I know you come from that socialite crowd. Got no use for it myself, but then again, no one ever invited me in. So, what’s your real story? Running away from some guy? Or, is your daddy trying to impress the world that he got money?”
“Well, seeing as how I’ll probably never see you again, I’ll tell you the truth,” and Rebecca told her of her odyssey.
“Damn girl – that’s some story! Kind of exciting in parts. So, you going to do what your daddy said?”
“Of course I am; I have no choice,” affirmed Rebecca.
“You always have choices my dear. You chose to give yourself to a man that could care less about you. Appears to me there were plenty of warning signs, but you moved ahead anyway. You that naïve?”
“Yes, just young and inexperienced.”
“How about that Robert fellow? You going to try and make it with him?”
“Yes, I believe so. We had a talk before I left. Of course, he doesn’t know I’m with child, but he always wanted me to marry him. He said he’ll miss me dearly, but my timing was right because he had to go to London, England for about six months. Something about an apprenticeship. Anyway, he wouldn’t be in Memphis for a while, and thought finishing school would take my mind off of him being gone.”
“Just like a man,” said Gladys, as she dug into her handbag for another cigarette. “Always thinking of himself! Well, if you ask me, and I know you didn’t, you are doing the right thing. You need to give up that baby and move on with your life. Sometimes women get themselves in trouble but, rest assured, there’s usually a good home waiting at the other end for their mistakes. It’ll be hard for you but, I know you got the spunk to carry it out.”
The two women talked for hours and it made the time go fast for Rebecca. She was thankful to have met Gladys, and believed that she had given a lot of sound advice. It was beneficial for Rebecca to receive input from a stranger who had no particular interest in her predicament.
“Next stop, Atlanta!” harkened the conductor.
“Well that’s my stop. Been nice talking to you. My son is picking me up. He’ll be wanting to head home right away so my grandsons can see me before they go to bed.”
The train pulled into Atlanta, but Rebecca couldn’t see anything but the city lights. She was sorry to see her new friend leave, and began to feel alone again. She thought of her nanny, Margaret, and missed her terribly. When the doors of the cabin opened, Gladys waved a positive goodbye, as she left Rebecca behind.
Within a few minutes, the train was again chugging its way toward Charleston. Rebecca thought about the advice Gladys had given to her, and came to an agreement with herself that the baby would be given up for adoption to a loving couple. Ten hours to go, she thought and was able to fall back asleep.
Anthony Mays was born and raised in Pennsylvania, Anthony went into military service at the age of seventeen. After retiring from the U.S. Army, he completed his bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Being too young to stop working, he made a second career in the U. S. government, enjoying positions for both the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs from which he retired again.
With his wife, Sherry, he enjoys life with their three children and significant others, and four blessed grandchildren. They enjoy vacations with the families, but have a special affinity for beaches on the Gulf Coast and Florida. Now, he is excited to begin a third career writing fiction and Halfway to the Truth was the third novel in his “halfway” series.
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