Authors: Patsy Brookshire
Tags: #Historical Romance, #Historical Fiction
Uncial Press Aloha, Oregon
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events described herein are
products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real.
Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely
eBook ISBN 13: 978-1-60174-112-7
eBook ISBN 10: 1-60174-112-X
Copyright © 2006, 2011 by Patsy Brookshire
Cover Design: Andrew E. Cier
Front cover photo of Anna
courtesy of Greg Chaney
Copyright © 2011
Trade paper edition published by Newport LAZERQUICK
with Dancing Moon Press
All rights reserved. Except for use in review, the reproduction or utilization of this work
in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or
hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the author or publisher.
Published by Uncial Press,
an imprint of GCT, Inc.
To Bob Chaney
Thank you for reading Threads, supporting, encouraging, and teaching me how to
change a tire in case I should ever need to.
One thinks when one writes a book that one made it all happen by oneself, but then a
window in one's brain opens up...good heavens, it took a bunch of folks to complete this project!
Therefore I say thank you to:
Sharon Bushard whose encouragement was constant, and whose spirit is my constant
Readers and editors, in alphabetical order:
Gloria Miller Allen, Michelle Annette, Sharon Bushard, Bob Chaney, Fara Darland,
Terry Goldade, Monica Goubaud, Susie Hatlevig, Avis Nelson, Perry Sams, Barbara Utterback,
Chantall VanWey, and Dorothy Voreis. Of particular mention for her unerring attention to detail
is Bonnie Brylinsky Chaney.
The incredibly patient women of our Focus writing group who listened, and critiqued
this work: Margaret Arvanitis, Kelli Brugh, Mariah Matthews, Karleene Morrow and Sunshine
Keck, I hope to give as much back to you.
My eleven aunts who, though none of them is Aunt Sophie, each contributed spirit and
talent, giving life to her character, and who each, in her own way, encouraged me: Mary, Mabel,
Lena, Lily, Bessie, Jessie, Virginia, Joy Brookshire; Wyona, Irene, Nellie Lackey. My six uncles,
although none of them are Zack or Willie, did work these lives: Bill, Ernie, Edgar, Bob, Derl
Brookshire; Morris Lackey.
My son Greg Chaney and my daughter Jennifer Chaney Haggerty, for your lifetime of
patience with this and other writing projects.
My mother, Helen Louise Lackey Burton Brookshire, my father, Clarence Wilbur
Brookshire and, sister Wanda Burton Bondi, from whose lives I took pieces for this story.
Curves women and co-workers who listened, and encouraged me with words and
purchase! Rose Reed and Andrew E. Cier, of Newport LAZERQUICK who were patient and
To my Uncial Press editor, Judith B. Glad, I am everlastingly grateful for your touch of
consistency and clarity. Thank you.
Last but never least, thank you husband John for morning coffee and the
writer-sustaining gifts that you give me.
She told me the story only once, over that Labor Day weekend, with such vividness and
determination that I feel compelled to re-tell it, so that we can know the finality of it, and forgive
Usually her tales were told as she worked about the house, or on her quilts. This one
began that mid-Friday afternoon as we were picking blackberries. It was a beautiful September
day, the time of year in Oregon when the seasons hang suspended--no longer summer, not yet
Though she was old, her back was still straight and her face had a rosy, girlish joy as the
berries piled up in the pail attached to her low-slung belt. A bee swung a bit too close to her face
and she pulled back involuntarily, scratching her hand on the sharp briars.
"Cottonpickin' thunderbolts!" She shook her hand and sucked at the bit of blood that
welled up. She laughed easily to herself, then looked over at me. Her rosy cheeks and soft black
eyes--she was pretty, as I'd never seen her before. I'd never seen her as pretty, or homely, she
was just Aunt Sophie, always there, and always the same.
"Annie," she said, a question in her tone, "did I ever tell you about David?"
I searched the family quickly, no David came to mind.
"No, of course I didn't," she went on, "I've never told anyone."
"Who is David?" I prodded as she seemed to sink into reflection. Was this a hint of the
senility I was now on the lookout for?
"Aw, David," she said as if the name felt good on her tongue. She tasted it again. "David
I could tell that the "Smithers" part didn't taste as well.
"Smithers," she said again, her lips wrinkling then smoothing with her smile. "Aw, well,
he couldn't help that."
"What's wrong with 'Smithers'," I pressed, anxious lest she dismiss the whole thing
before I found out who this David Andrew was that made her smile so.
"It's not artistic enough. David was an artist." Here she broke off. "How about we sit in
the shade for awhile?"
There were still lots of berries on the vines. Aunt Sophie never stopped until every
container available, plus her apron, was full, so I quickly agreed, knowing that this tale was
somehow different, important. We settled ourselves on a grassy spot and leaned against the trunk
of a large fir.
"Now," I asked lightly, "who is David Andrew Smithers?"
"David was mine."
It's unnerving to realize that I am not completely in charge of my future, that the past
events and decisions made by another person can then wriggle their way into my life, affecting
what I do today, and, what I do tomorrow. Such as the effect of these old, yellowed letters of
Aunt Sophie's. You wouldn't think the words of a fourteen-year-old boy could spur me to
spending my evenings at this typewriter, compelled to catch quickly the story of a family, most
of whose members are long dead. I would much rather be out taking pictures or looking at the
full moon with Roger, but as Aunt Sophie used to say, "First things first, Annie!" Agitating.
It's midwinter now and the rain of the last week has let up to just a soft dripping from
the eave over my bedroom window to the flower bed below, pooling in the dirt under the cedar
chips. The fresh smell through the open window is a pleasant accompaniment to the annoying
hum of this old typewriter. My entrance into the story I have to tell began on quite another day,
just prior to an unusually warm Labor Day weekend a few years ago.
I had dropped by Aunt Sophie's place for a few minutes after work to see if there was
anything she needed before I left for the holiday. The old gal threw me a curve. She asked me to
spend the whole weekend with her. When I reluctantly agreed, I never intended to remain the full
I had loosely arranged to spend Sunday and Monday nights in the mountains with
Len. Another memory, but at the time he was very current and, I thought, was my
future. By the stream by day and the cabin fire by night we would have "A wonderful
experience", "Get to know each other better", and, I hoped, clear up some difficulties in our
And then Aunt Sophie, with her clear-eyed logic, said, "Annie, you're twenty-two and
soon will be tied down with this Len fellow." She could never just say, "Len". "...and won't have
time for your old auntie. You'll be busy with a house, and kids, and what all, and before you
know it I'll be gone." She knew I hated any references to her age, or death. It was an effective
way to get to me.
"Of course, I know you're busy, and you young people do have your own lives to
I brushed that aside, even though I agreed with her.
"But I found a late patch of blackberries back in the woods yesterday, and, you know,
what with my hip and all, I didn't get any jam or pies put up this year, and I just thought,
wouldn't it be nice if Annie and I could do those up together." She was pulling all my strings
now. "Remember when you were just little and weren't much more than a bother, and how you
loved to help me?"
So I told her I'd see if I couldn't work something out, some time in, but I couldn't
promise more than to see if I could get off work early at the photo shop. That would give us
Friday afternoon and all Saturday but I already had plans for Sunday and Monday.
She seemed happy at that and I went home to my apartment not thinking much more
about it. But late that night, after having suffered through an inane TV program while I waited, in
vain, for Len--sensitive, emotional, black-haired, black-eyed Len, whom I planned to marry in
the spring--to call, I went to bed. Instead of the sleep I craved, I started thinking about my
Aunt Sophie was nearing eighty. Our age difference had never mattered. She'd always
been my best friend, the one who taught me how to dress: "Be neat, Annie. Simple, but always
put a little thought into your clothes, a little flair."
She analyzed my shape. "You're going to be tall. You'll be able to wear just about
anything, but stay away from frills. They'll just make you look silly. With that blond hair of your
mother's, and your dad's sweet mouth you don't need to look any... Well, you're something
She undertook to study my character. "You're going to make mistakes," she told me one
afternoon as she held me to her soft chest and patted me on the back. I'd come home heartsick
because I'd told a secret a friend had trusted me not to tell, and the friend had found me out. I
was sad, and embarrassed. "But use them to improve yourself."
"Here," she took her hankie--white lace, it was--from where she always carried it in the
belt of her housedress, and wiped my eyes with the so-soft cloth. Her sturdy hands were old even
then, lightly dusted with brown spots. Purple veins from her wrists traced down her fingers.
Long, wide hands, worker hands. Laying her face against my wet cheek, she said, "Dear Annie,"
and kissed me quickly.
"Friendship is so fragile, but somebody will trust you again, and, next time you will do
better. I have faith in you." She said this firmly, so that I believed her.
With Aunt Sophie shaping me like a tender young pear tree, pruning here and there, and
propping up my fragile limbs, I grew strong enough to stand up on my own, and felt that I could
weather any storms.
She was old-fashioned but she was the only one who took the time to care, to notice
I owed her a lot.
I loved her deeply.
Great Aunt Sophie was my father's mother's sister. She never married, so was sometimes
referred to as, "Poor Aunt Sophie," at least by the more charitable members of the Elm family.
This was a short list: two cousins of mine who left Oregon to move to far-away New York at a
young age, to return to the bosom of the family in their late forties, long after Aunt Sophie's
prime years. Someone else in the family, I remember Great Uncle Zack in particular, would
snort, and say, "Poor Aunt Sophie my eye! I wish I could have got somebody to support me the
way she did."
Aunt Sophie earned her keep. She lived with almost everyone in the family at one time
or other and made a quilt for each of them. The quilts were personalized, depicting something
close to the receiver's heart. They were beautiful.
Other than the New York cousins and myself, my Uncle Boyd was the only other
relative who spoke up in his aunt's defense, and he did so from the distance of Washington, D.C.
He provided her with the home she had lived in since she was in her fifties.
The Elm family had many branches--sorry, it's a family joke. Great Aunt Sophie, known
to us simply as Aunt Sophie, had three brothers, Trevor, Zack, and Willie and four sisters, Lucy,
Lydia, Mandy, and Herminie. Two of the brothers, Zack and Trevor, had never married.
Trevor never had a chance. In late 1917, at age seventeen, he went off enthusiastically to
join the "War to End All Wars." By the spring of 1918 he was dead, shot, it was said, by a
French housewife. The full story was never known and the family didn't seek details, it being
enough to cope with the fact that Trevor had been dispatched by an ally. But it wasn't hard to
figure out. Trevor had been of a terror at home with a number of neighboring women and girls,
so the family had reason not to look or question too closely.
Scandal was abhorred by the Elms. "Ignore the unpleasant or uncomfortable" was
almost a family motto. The grief this caused can never be measured, certainly Aunt Sophie paid a
high price to maintain it.
Trevor's death shocked the family but particularly left its mark on his younger brothers,
especially Zack who took it bitterly. Ever afterwards his affection for anyone or anything was
tempered with a grim reserve. He must have secretly admired Trevor's rough reputation but
didn't have the guts to carry it off, just enough to be dangerous when thwarted.