The very cool Tumblr kept by The Strand Bookstore posts found photos and underlined passages in the books. They recently hosted a contest to write a piece based on one of their posts. I chose a black and white photo of a young girl dancing.
I did not win, but I would still like to share my entry here. I wrote a letter from the girl to her brother.
Dearest Henry —
I hope you are well. It seems ages since you’ve been home. I daresay you wouldn’t recognize me. I’ve grown at least a half of a foot since you left. Lucy finds my sudden height a nuisance as I am always raiding her wardrobe for something to wear. I think she’s jealous. I swear she wouldn’t mind if she weren’t so preoccupied with gaining the affections of Mr. Stanley. She needn’t try so hard. He’s not very attractive himself and has eyes for no one else but Lucy. Even so, she changes her dress at least three times a day and again for dinner. He must have seen them all by now, but perhaps men do not notice such things, do they, Henry?
The household is well enough. Mother keeps to her garden, as the days have been quite fine lately. We all encourage her to write as she always has some story or another whirling around in her mind, but you know it’s been hard for her. I think the house spent among nature in solitary contemplation are good for her and her books. I know her publisher is anxious for a new manuscript.
I took some flowers to Father’s grave yesterday. The ground has leveled and the grass is beginning to grow again. His stone still looks too new and shining to be real. I feel as though the funeral I remember was a strange dream. He must have know when we were born that he wouldn’t be with us long. But I’m glad we knew him.
I despise school but it’s near the end of the term now. Mrs. Pigeon (her code name, for she bobs her head while she talks) is a dreadful instructor. She puts lessons on the chalkboard then leaves us to teach ourselves while she reads a romance novel, tucked into our literature reader. She thinks we don’t know, but there’s nothing in our schoolbooks that would make a grown woman blush! Then she calls on us each, one by one, to read our answers, and we have to mark our own papers (honestly). The only thing in which she succeeds is belittling those who come up with incorrect answers. Thankfully, in another couple of weeks I shall never have to submit to Mrs. Pigeon again.
Perhaps my restlessness comes from a lack of male companionship. I find I am surrounded only by girlish pastimes. I long for those summer evenings where you and I stayed out among the fireflies. We ran through tall grasses and chased out the evening moths, forded streams that cooled our dusty feet. Those days seemed eternal then. I’m glad I didn’t know how special they would be to me now; it would have ruined the magic. I would have tried to bottle it instead of letting it wash over me. I suppose there is nothing for it but to be grateful for the memories, especially whenever I miss you.
I’ve enclosed a snap for you. I hope it reminds you of the Midsummer plays we put on. Please give my best to Madge.
Your loving sister,
PS Despite Lucy’s complaint about my height, Ms. Petrov thinks it has helped my form considerably. She says my turnout is much improved and I may even go en pointe soon!