The Shenandoah Valley, December 1968

Still muttering, Ella grabbed the mop in the corner and stumped over in faded house shoes and support hose to attack the puddle spreading on the linoleum beyond the small braided rug where Bailey stood.

Part Cherokee, part Negro, and part Bailey wasn’t sure what, maybe past slave owner as some of those men had sired offspring, Ella ruled the kitchen and most of the house. She wouldn’t allow a scrap of a kitten inside let alone a collie, and soft-spoken Aunt Meg deferred to her wishes. However, Ella insisted she knew her place and housed herself, Old John, and Rosa Mae out in the old kitchen behind the house, more of a cottage now, with a big hearth she put to use.

With a decided “Humph,” Ella restored the mop and tugged at the wool wrapping Bailey like a mummy. “Where you been, child? Don’t you go fretting your Aunt now.”

“No. Sorry. Lost track of time.” Easily done here.

Clucking disapproval, Ella helped Bailey struggle out of the too-big coat then hung her wraps from the hooks on one pale yellow wall. “Can’t stand about in them stocking feet. Catch your death.”

Ella snatched pink slippers from an assortment in the cupboard and nudged Bailey’s numb toes into the fuzzy footwear. She then inspected her as she might a stray dog, only a dog wouldn’t get this far.

“That mane of yours could do with taming, like a half wild pony.” She ran her critical gaze over Bailey’s frayed sweater and jeans. “Don’t you got nothing better to wear? Look like a bum coming round the house.” She sniffed. “Smell like one too.”

“It’s incense—”

“I told you not to be burning that stuff. Set the house on fire next thing. And don’t you be thinking ‘bout coloring on them walls.”

A reference to Bailey’s bedroom murals at home. She’d had to begin somewhere with her art. No one accused Michelangelo of coloring on the ceiling.

“You go and git a nice hot bath and find something pretty to put on.”

“Ella—”
She held up a righteous hand with the demeanor of a pastor about to deliver a sermon. “You’ll be glad enough to fix yourself up when you hear who’s coming.”

Bailey considered the muted excitement in Ella’s coffee-colored eyes. “Santa Claus?”

Ella cocked her gray head at a jaunty angle. “Better.”

“Than Santa? Who?”
Ella played her trump card. “Mr. Eric hisself.”

Bailey’s heart lurched. “He’s back on furlough?”

“Nope. Called from the train station to say he’s home for good. Never said nothing before. Wanted to surprise Miss Meg.
He sure did, right enough. She’s bubbling over. Rosa Mae drove her into town to fetch him. What do you think of that, Miss?”

Quite a lot.  Bailey’s mind swirled with images of Eric Burke before he’d joined the Marines and shipped off to Vietnam. Though on the serious side, he was gifted with flashes of wit and a smile that charged his average good looks with masculine glory…
…The news about Eric had made her momentarily forget the figure upstairs. “Which room are you putting him in?”

Ella reached into the cabinet for the shortening. “His own, of course. The white room.”

Old Southern homes had names, as did the rooms. Bailey slept in the yellow room across the far hall from the more austere white room outfitted with Eric’s school pennants, trophies, and other masculine decor. Aunt Meg was on the other side of Bailey in the rose room, its walls papered with flowers. A second hall ran past Bailey and Aunt Meg’s rooms and led to the stairs.

“What about the room at the end of the front hall? The one on the right?” Bailey didn’t know its name.

Ella shook her head. “No one uses that one.”

“That’s what I thought, but…”
Ella shot her a glance over her shoulder. “What?”

“Thought I saw a light on in there a little while ago.”

She frowned. “Can’t. No one’s there.”

Which left Bailey to arrive at the only logical conclusions, either Maple Hill was haunted or she was losing her mind. She wondered if Eric would find her particular brand of insanity charming or downright weird, or whether he’d even notice her at all.~

*Image of the old Virginia family homeplace
*Ella was my dad’s outspoken housekeeper when he was growing up.  She died before my time but I heard enough stories about her to feel like I knew her.

***Somewhere the Bells Ring is available in various ebook formats at The Wild Rose PressAmazon Kindle, All Romance Ebooks, Barnes & Noble’s Nookbook & other online booksellers.

16 comments

  1. Barbara Monajem // November 26, 2011 at 10:08 AM  

    Yikes! Can't wait to meet the ghost. (And Eric.)

  2. Lynne Marshall // November 26, 2011 at 11:00 AM  

    Thank you for this generous excerpt! the pictures were great, too. That's what I love about blogs, they let the reader get a feel for what the author envisioned when she wrote the book. Great stuff!

  3. Beth Trissel // November 26, 2011 at 11:49 AM  

    Thanks Barbara and Lynne. :)

  4. Pamela Varnado // November 26, 2011 at 3:17 PM  

    Hi Beth, I can't wait to find out what the mystery is surrounding Eric and Bailey.

  5. Beth Trissel // November 26, 2011 at 3:34 PM  

    Thanks Pam. That might be giving too much away :)

  6. Scarlet Pumpernickel // November 26, 2011 at 3:56 PM  

    Now this one strikes a cord with me. Any story with a vet returning from Vietnam always does. So many of our handsome young men didn't make it home. Can't wait to read this one. Thanks for sharing Beth.

  7. Mary Marvella // November 26, 2011 at 4:10 PM  

    Good work, Beth! Girl, you know how to grab my attention. Love the story, and I'm ready for the ghost, too!

  8. Scarlet Pumpernickel // November 26, 2011 at 7:32 PM  

    Okay, I've decided to buy this one! Which venue gives you the best results, Beth?

  9. Scarlet Pumpernickel // November 26, 2011 at 7:55 PM  

    My darling daugher bought me a new living room suite for Christmas. Lovely, lovely leather set with built in recliners on the sofa and a separate recliner chair for me! So, I have downloaded my copy of Somewhere the bells ring and I am relaxed in my new chair about to enjoy the story! I will report back when I finish reading! Happy, happy!

  10. Calisa Rhose // November 26, 2011 at 11:34 PM  

    That picture of Eric? Scrumptious. Just sayin'.

  11. Mary Ricksen // November 27, 2011 at 12:05 PM  

    Wonderful excerpt! Ghosts are one of my favorite story lines. Although if I ever saw one I'd pass out. Great stuff Beth.

  12. Scarlet Pumpernickel // November 27, 2011 at 1:58 PM  

    And this ghost is just delicious! Wounded hero and hints of reincarnation! I'm loving this story.

  13. Beth Trissel // November 27, 2011 at 2:57 PM  

    Well, well, feel like I'm missing the party. Thanks so much all, especially Scarlet.

  14. Mary Marvella // November 27, 2011 at 8:59 PM  

    Wow, we can celebrate with Scarlet and Beth!

  15. Judy // November 28, 2011 at 1:18 PM  

    It's always so neat to read your stories which are founded on family. This reads like another winner!! Good luck with it...

  16. Josie // December 2, 2011 at 1:17 PM  

    Enchanting excerpt, Beth. I didn't realize that southern rooms had names. And, the info on the housekeeper is fascinating. Gorgeous pictures, as always.