Shh, don’t start. It’s not time yet. You might turn the key in the ignition, and it might start out with a roar and a rumble and a jerk, but wait. You can only drive it around the block once before it starts to sputter instead of purr, and then creak – it’s done. Then you’re stuck in the middle of the road with no gas, no phone, no oil, no story. So don’t start it yet. Go back inside the house and wait it out until a stronger bolt of lightning hits you. Until you’re sleeping in your bumpy bed and suddenly you open your eyes with a start she’s right there in front of you, naked under a blue fuzzy towel, and you feel so moved and so warm and so turned on that you have to run to the laptop, flip it open, and start.
You’ll start to see her everywhere and though she’s almost 4,000 miles away and exists not only in your imagination but also sixty odd years in the past you’ll be able to see every detail of her. Watch her as she climbs up one of the mountains surrounding the mine. She’ll scale the sides of that deep Valley and you can follow her there. You can be a few steps behind those legs of hers, thick and strong in Blake’s rolled up blue jeans. She’s going to that spot where no one can see her, the one where she picks blueberries for a few minutes and then lies down under the breeze and the never-ending sun and thinks about Blake and Adam. Adam and Blake. They feel so far away while she’s so far above them. As she pulls Blake’s jeans down from her pelvis, past her hips, finally settling them around her knees, the air on her bare skin feels like how Billie Holiday’s voice sounds and she’s far away from everything for a while.
Listen: if you’re going to know her through and through, if you’re going to write about her in the most truthful way (giving respect to dreams, heartbeats, babies, ginko trees, etc. etc.), you’re going to have to hear about some things you might not be totally comfortable with. Justine is beautiful, yes. She’s also a mess, sometimes selfish, sometimes dull. Sometimes she shocks us all by doing something completely selfless like bringing the mine’s governess a big batch of cookies upon her nervous arrival. Don’t be too terribly shocked though, please. Justine thinks the girl is pretty. She almost always has a selfish motive behind her selfless acts. Mainly she wishes she could be the youthful colt-like thing, free from husband and the haunting of dead twin boys and affairs with mine-office-bookkeepers. Free from everything but teaching wide-eyed, scruffy and cold children history, math, writing, David Copperfield, chemistry, and how to sew buttons. Justine thought the girls was the cat’s behind so she brought her a treat from her tiny kitchen, to make the girl like her. You know how that is. You write for yourself and you veil your characters in bits of your own scattered parts and then you want people to look at you, admire you, touch you, feel you, blah blah blah.
Justine felt sorry that the girl didn’t have a kitchen, just a tiny room around the corner from the schoolroom. The space she had to sleep in was airy and white, cool and bright, but it was lonely and too close to the bullpen where some young men had died the year before. The governess didn’t know about the dead young men at first, but Justine had whispered the tragic tale in the girl’s ear one morning during one of her becoming-too-frequent visits.
Justine was like all women: she had about a million personalities and moods that she could pull out of her pocketbook for ease of use for every occasion. She was a lady, though, and knew how to mask these manipulative moods in sugar glaze and pencil skirts.