Update: This was the original first chapter. However, I did some extensive overhauling of the early part of the book during my NaNoWriMo writing marathon. I’m leaving the original sneak peeks up for now, but just be aware what you read here may or may not end up in the final version of the story.
I’m back everybody!
And I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know I did. So much so that I didn’t even write a blog post last week. I guess I was too busy sleeping off the turkey. (Guilty smile). BUT, since I neglected you all for two weeks, I’ve decided that in this post I’ll share something very special…
Of course, it’s not the final edit, but it’s a general idea, anyway. Plus, my blog readers get a version everyone else will never see, with pictures that may or may not end up in the actual book, and links that most certainly will not!
– October 1946 –
Grey curls of fog had rolled in from the sea that cool October morning, up from the bay and into the mouth of the Hudson river. In the pale half-light just before dawn, the misty covering enveloped New York city and lay heavy over the harbor, shrouding and soundless. The vessels docked there were only dark shapes, half-hidden, floating quietly in the cold, still water.
There among them, fog-draped and indistinct like the rest, lay the RMS Queen Elizabeth.
Even without being able to read the name, painted in bold black letters over white, Fredrick Overall knew exactly which one she was. He’d seen her come into port a few days before, with water cannons booming out a welcome and flags rippling triumphantly in the breeze.
Now he leaned against one of the elevated-highway supports, listening to early morning traffic rumbling overhead and the shouts of dockworkers out on the piers as he looked at the Queen’s shadowy form, there in the slip. He was wearing grease-smudged workman’s clothing, not quite his size, and holding a large tool-box that, in fact, did not have a single tool inside it.
As he stood there, silent and almost completely still in the gray morning light, his form seemed to melt into the pillar behind him. Only his left hand moved, just slightly. With his thumb he was rubbing slowly across the tips of two fingers, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. As he always did when he was thinking.
Somehow he had to get onto that ship.
And so far, this was the only plan he had.
He took a deep breath, got a good grip on the toolbox handle, and started walking. Out toward the water and onto pier 90. The world was growing gradually lighter, but the fog still engulfed everything in sight. Through the moist air came the sounds of cranes creaking and workman shouting as the stevedores and longshoremen worked to get the cargo loaded. Slowly, Fred approached the ship. He could see the dockworkers trundling cargo around, their figures growing more distinct the closer he came. A few more yards, and then he was among them, walking with an easy step as if he belonged there, and trying not to draw any attention to himself. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted the superintendent standing off to the side and talking to someone, not looking in his direction. He kept going, headed toward the Queen. No one seemed to take any notice.
Almost there now. Only a few more steps. He let the toolbox swing a little at his side, careless, as if he had every right to board the ship and didn’t expect anyone to stop him. Closer and closer he came.
Then, just as he put his foot on the gangplank, a shout rang out.
His heart leaped into his throat. The call had come from the superintendent’s direction, but from this angle he couldn’t tell where it was aimed. Had he been spotted? Was the shout for him? He couldn’t tell without looking, and to stop and look would only make him more noticeable. Best to pretend he hadn’t heard then. He kept his face toward the ship and took another step, holding his breath.
After an endless, agonizing pause, the voice continued.
“Tell Susie I said hello, will you?”
Fred’s breath came back in a sigh of relief. It was only the superintendent calling an afterthought to the man he’d been talking to.
Without any more false alarms, he stepped aboard the Queen Elizabeth. She looked a bit different now, both inside and out, than he remembered from their prior acquaintance during the war. But that didn’t keep him from walking confidently, even when he was slightly unsure where he was going. And soon enough he found himself breathing a sigh of relief as he slipped into the cargo hold.
There, between crates and boxes and chests, he found a shadowy place to hide himself, as far out of the way as he could manage, and settled down to wait.
The ship was supposed to leave within a matter of hours. If he could only keep from being discovered until they were well out at sea, they would just have to take him with them. Even if he had to work off his passage at that point, at least he would get a passage.
The minutes and hours slowly ticked away. Soon, soon now they would leave the port. He was so close.
Then, he heard someone. Footsteps moved briskly around the hold, from one place to another. Fred pressed himself as far back in the shadows as he could as whoever it was seemed to be getting gradually closer. Here and then there, and pausing for a moment, nearer and nearer and nearer. Suddenly, the footsteps stopped, only a few feet from where Fred was hiding. He held his breath.
What if they found him? What would they do? Off the top of his head he couldn’t recall hearing what the usual treatment of stowaways was. Even just kicking him off the ship would be bad enough though. He’d used up a lot of his money getting here and purchasing the disguise. There was probably enough for a return trip home, but it would take months and months to save up enough for a ship’s passage later. After finally making it all they way up here from Florida, what if the whole thing fell apart?
But it must not! There was a determined set to his jaw. Somehow everything would turn out alright. The plan would work. It had to. He had to get back to England.
He had to get back…to Lily.
Alright. There you have it! Fred and Lily’s story, chapter one.
Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions, corrections, or comments! Particularly if you have researched the time period, (or lived through it!), you most likely know things that would be a fabulous help to me as I write. So don’t be shy! Comment below or get in touch with me through my contact page!