Queen Mary & Be With Me
Spent last weekend on the beautiful Queen Mary Hotel, in Long Beach. Originally, the book signing was to have taken place aboard her, so I booked a suite where I expected to perhaps host a little after signing party.
As fate would have it, a small war broke out amongst the promoters and some of the authors, so the venue was moved to a nearby hotel. I elected to keep my suite.
I’d never stayed at the Queen Mary, or set foot on her, and I was curious. With my heart set with a sense of adventure I sailed off to her in Long Beach Harbor, after a smooth ride from San Francisco to the pleasant little airport I can’t wait to come back to. I was used to being on cattle trucks from one of the crowded terminals at SFO, so to leave from the International Terminal, with it’s wide spaces and tall ceilings emulating wings on some giant flying ship, I was transported back to the 1930’s and the art deco beauty of a bygone era.
So while the book signing was very pleasant and fairly well attended, especially compared to some larger gatherings I’ve been to with nearly no readers in attendance, the stay at the Queen Mary was the highlight of the weekend.
We took the ghost tour, an hour of bone-chilling tales of the history of the ship, and some of it’s inhabitants, including platoons of troops during WWII. Sir Winston Churchill was said to be seen smoking his cigar in the suite next to mine from time to time. The lady in the white dress followed the large grand piano and appeared wherever it was moved. A children’s playroom looked eerily as if the children had been asked to leave in the middle of their play. We toured the engine room, and a dark, dank, and musty boiler room. A cast of actors was getting fitted for the Zombie Ball happening during Halloween season.
The ticket office looked like it had just booked another cruise for some lucky couple. Sir Winston’s restaurant, as well as the main dining hall downstairs served up world-class cuisine, including oysters and aseafood chowder to die for.
I opened the two porthole windows in my bedroom and slept like a baby both nights. The suite had built in art deco furniture in light browns, beautiful frosted fixtures and plastic “air conditioning” vents in the walls, which certainly must have been a luxury back then.
It was a great place to take my muse. Watched Outlander on my computer, which seemed somehow fitting as I sat in a suite created during a bygone era, once occupied and operated by people no longer living.
Be With Me
One of my next stories will be Be With Me, and it is a time travel romance. As a special treat, here is an excerpt no one has read before. You are some of the first. Enjoy!
“Lady, lady, you don’t want to go here. This, Lady is not the right pier. This is the old pier, for fishermen and such. Please, Lady I take you to the pier that is correct.” The cab driver was unhappy with Louisa’s choice of dropping off point.
“No, this is it.” She held up a picture of the steamer Princess Star, and clearly this was the location, although the background looked different. “Thank you.” She reached over the front seat and handed the driver a purple banknote. She was still getting used to the feel of the foreign currency.
The driver got out and opened the rear door, muttering to himself in some dialect, and then he opened the trunk and pulled out her suitcase. She had purchased it two days ago at Goodwill. Its ivory and brown-stripped design with an amber-colored Bakelite handle called to her the instant she walked into the store. It had been well used, but the hinges were good and the purple satin lining inside was completely intact, but faded.
“Lady, please, I beg you. This is not such a safe place. I should not leave you alone here. I am sure your ship is around the corner. That is where all the cruise ships dock. Please, Lady.”
“Thank you, but I am meeting someone here. They will come by shortly. Don’t worry. Please.” She reached to touch his arm but he recoiled in horror. She wasn’t sure of the customs, but she knew he didn’t consider it appropriate to have contact. Shaking his head, he drove off.
The pier was abandoned except for a solitary figure, wrapped in white robes, fishing off the end. Two little brown boys were running away from her, playing a game of tag. As she walked down the wooden planks, she looked at the numbers painted years ago on the wood, now almost illegible. A half sunk fishing vessel was tied up near the shore, but aside from that, nothing was attached. Her picture showed several small ships looking like water taxis and commercial boats on each side of the white sleek steamer. At number three, like on the picture, she stopped. She stepped to the edge of the walkway. There was no sign of a white ship anywhere in the vicinity.
Looking down at her feet, she stepped from the pier over the water, and then stepped back. What could happen? The worst would be I’d fall down about thirty feet to the water below with my suitcase. No telling what kind of sickness the waterway held. Would be a hard one to explain, but she had to take a chance.
She leaned forward and stepped over the water again, and then down. Just as she felt she was going to fall, her foot hit solid wood, and suddenly the white steamer came to view. She was on deck of the elegant ship from the photograph in the magazine. Everything around her changed as well. Gone were the tall buildings at the customs house, the bazaar for tourists with corrugated metal roof. A series of shanties sat there in their place.
“Ma’am. Your cabin number, please?” He was dressed in a navy blue uniform with hat adorned in gold braid.
“Um, I don’t know. I didn’t make the arrangements.”
“Your name, Ma’am?”
Louisa hesitated. “Louisa…Dawson. Louisa Dawson.”
The porter looked down a list from his clipboard. “Ah, yes, you are in my section, actually. Right this way, please, Ma’am.” He bent to take her suitcase. “This all?”
“Yes. I didn’t have time to pack much else.” Louisa was thinking it wouldn’t have worked to pack jeans and a tee shirt. She packed a nightie and some toiletries, and several pairs of fresh underwear. But her dress today was one she found in a costume shop. She looked more like a wench from a Renaissance Faire, complete with bloomers. It was a lot of clothes for the stifling heat.
“This is a right handy apparatus, Ma’am.” He was examining the suitcase.
“We call them suitcases.”
“Makes sense. Thoroughly modern, but I see it is well used already.” He tore his eyes away and Louisa followed him down the deck. “Here we are, Ma’am.” With white gloves, he produced a brass key and unlocked the white louvered door, and opened it. Detaching the key from the gold chain protruding from his pocket, he handed it to Louisa. “Ma’am, your key.” He bowed. “The name’s Sampson, at your service, Ma’am.”
He left to attend to other passengers.
Louisa’s heart was in her throat as she pushed open the door. There was a small bed in the corner, with a highboy dresser and mirror on the opposite wall. A lower dresser with drawers and oval mirror with a padded stool was on the same wall as the door. She placed her suitcase down on the bed, examining the washing chamber containing a wooden tub coated with a yellow resin. She heard the door open, and turned around.
Anthony Francis Markham stood tall and straight perfectly framed in the white doorway. He was not a ghost. He looked at her face, then his eyes slid down examining her body slowly all the way to her shoes and then back up. Louisa’s chest felt like it was going to burst; the thumping roar in her ears raged as hot sweat poured down her spine.
After all the near close encounters with him in her fantasy life, the kisses she had felt but could not see being given to her, the man was now standing in front of her. Flesh and blood. Very much alive, as he had been in 1860.
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