Nikki invited me to sit down. She was an American like me, and newly wed to a British Earl. The former Nicole Keller was now a countess, and rumor had it the marriage was one of convieneice. But she seemed happy.
I sat in a beautiful but uncomfortable rosewood and gold upholstered parlor chair. Nikki addjusted her wide skirts and sat across from me in a matching chair. She leaned forward, her curly brown hair falling over her shoulder as she met my gaze. "I heard you recently celebrated your annivesary. Which one?"
"Our thirty-first. We celebrated June 7."
"May I offer my felicitations?" Her voice was unnaturally cultered, the slight inclination of her chin stilted, as if she wasn't used to the regid posture or the formal speach.
I cracked a smile. "Thanks. And congratulations on your recent marriage."
A smile brightened her face as well. "Thank you. Do you have any children?"
"She's attending college? Oh my! That's so...adventurous." Envy colored Nikki's face. "I have no formal education beyond the school room. But I learned much, sailing on my father's ship as a young girl. What of your oldest?"
"She's married and living in Germany. Her husband is in the army, and she works for the army." Again, I kept my secrets. My daughter worked for the MWR, the army's version of parks and recreation. Her husband was an airtraffic controller. But in Nikki's time, airplanes didn't exist.
A frown wrinkled Nikki's brow. "But America isn't at war with Germany."
Hmm. I hadn't thought about that. I thought she'd have questions about my daughter's job. There were only so many acceptable jobs a women could have in her time. I shrugged.
"It must be difficult," she added after a moment of awkward silence. "My mother and I travelled together to England. In fact, she lives with Chad...I mean, Lord Gilchrest and me. But your daughter lives so far away, and overseas mail take so dreadfully long."
But email and texting were instant. And there was always Skype and the telephone. Both my daughter and I had Vonage so there was no long distance charges. Besides, my husband and I had just visited my dauther and her husband in April. It was our second visit since her marriage in December 2006. And this time, we took a side trip to Amsterdam. But I didn't say anything. I simply lowered my head to hide a smile.
Nikki cleared her throat. "Germany isn't so very far from England. Perhaps you could sail there before heading home?" she suggested.
I hid another smile. "Perhaps."
"I understand you're from North Carolina."
I nodded. "I live in north central North Carolina."
Her golden brown eyes brightened. "Have you ever been to Portsmouth Village? I grew up there on the island."
I hesitated, not sure how to answer. Nikki left the island in 1857. I was there in 2006. "Yes..."
Her face glowed with excitement. "It's wonderful. Isn't it? I love it here at Lands End, but I miss North Carolina and would love to show Lord Gilchrest where I grew up. It's been over a year since I left. Has it changed much, do you think?"
Portsmouth Village was once the largest settlement on the Outer Banks and a major shipping center until the hurricane of 1846 cut a deeper inlet through Hatteras. After Ocracoke Inlet began to shoal, Portsmouth and nearby Shell Castle Island became lightering stations. During Nikki’s time, tall ships dropped anchor off shore and slave labor transferred the cargo to and from lighter, shallower draft boats for the journey out to sea or back to the wharf and further inland to other ports.
By 1860, the population of Portsmouth had grown to 685 residents. But after North Carolina succeeded from the union in 1861, many of those residents fled for the mainland to avoid the Union Army as it marched across the Outer Banks. Many never returned and eventually, the shipping industry shifted north and the village began to die.
Fishing replaced shipping for the islanders that remained and in 1894, the U.S. Life-Saving Service was established on the island. It played a vital role in the community for 50 years. But by 1956, only 17 residents remained on the island.
Eventually, the isolation became too much, and in 1971, the last two residents moved to the mainland.
The island is now a state park and visiting is like stepping back in time. Some of the houses remain and a church still stands as does the school and post office. But the mosqitos and flies will eat you alive. I wondered how people managed in Nikki's time. But I couldn't ask. She thought I was a woman from her own time who wrote sensation novels.
I cleared my throat. "It's been a couple of years since I visited. I'm sure the place has changed."
"Oh, I doubt it's changed much," she said with a laugh. "The people of Portsmouth Island live simple lives and don't cotten to change."
"I know you miss your home, but don't you like it here--in Land's End with your husband?" I know longer knew who was interviewing whom. I'd written Nikki's story to have a happy ending, but things had happened. Terrible things. So, was she really happy? I needed to know.
I sighed with relief, knowing she was happy with her life and her husband because I'd written her that way.
Slightly Tarnished, my first published historical is now available from the publisher: The Wild Rose Press http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=176_138&products_id=4516
and Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/slightly-tarnished-lilly-gayle/1031415856?ean=2940012929167&itm=2&usri=lilly%2bgayle
If you enjoyed this interview, please check out the other particiapting authors in the chain to see which characters interview them.
Here's a list of participants in order of their participation and estimated dates:
6/6: Aimee Laine : http://www.aimeelaine.com/blog
6/8: Lyla Dune : http://lyladune.com/blog.html
6/10: Carol Strickland : http://carolastrickland.blogspot.com/
6/12: Amy Corwin : http://amycorwin.blogspot.com/
6/14: Lilly Gayle : http://www.lillygayleromance.blogspot.com/
6/16: Rebekkah Niles : http://juturnafaerthing.blogspot.com/
6/18: Laura Browning : http://www.laurabrowningbooks.blogspot.com/
6/20: Andris Bear : http://andrisbear.wordpress.com/
6/22: Marcia Colette : http://marciacolette.wordpress.com/
6/24: Nancy Badger : http://www.nancylennea-inlove.blogspot.com
6/26: Sarah Mäkelä : http://blog.sarahmakela.com
6/28: Jennifer Harrington : http://www.romanceadventures.blogspot.com/
6/30: Scott Berger : http://romanticadventurestories.wordpress.com/