The second semester of Effie’s junior year at George Mason began with a mixture of snow and ice, and classes were cancelled. Cooped up in the house with nothing to do, she moseyed into the library with Macaria in hand, found a seat by the window, and gazed at the wintry setting below, taking note of the massive oaks glazed in glittering ice, which reminded her of ice palaces.
Slipping into a nostalgic mood, she proceeded to read the book, published during the Civil War as a Southern propaganda piece disguised as a romance. But Effie was more interested in the protagonists’ relationship than in the subtleties bolstering the Rebel cause. If only real life could rival romantic fiction! Was God fashioning a lifelong companion for her as dashing as Russell Aubrey?
She sighed blissfully as she read the following passage:
“Irene, oblige me in what may seem a trifle; unfasten your hair and let it fall around you, as I have seen it once or twice in your life.” She took out her comb, untied the ribbons, and, passing her fingers through the bands, shook them down. He passed his hands caressingly over the glossy waves.
Impulsively, Effie removed the combs binding her own hair, and vigorously shook her head, casting untamed curls in every direction. Then, with an elbow propped on the windowsill and her chin resting in the palm of her hand, she gazed dreamily upon the day’s spectacular finale. As the sun dipped low in the Western sky, its blazing splendor filled the room, painting the alabaster walls with shades of crimson, plum, and gilded pink.
Effie stood up and maneuvered the chair to make the most of the remaining daylight then sat down and resumed reading aloud, vaguely conscious of footsteps in the hallway.
She was endeavoring to memorize a paragraph when, all at once, the door swung open hitting the wall with a loud band. Effie leapt from the chair, sending the book to the floor, and stooping to retrieve it, found herself bowed low before Rev. Baldwin.
“Give me your hand!”
He pulled her up until her eyes were on a level with his tie, and she could tell by the rigidity of his posture that he was fuming. And yet, braving a look at his face, she gulped to discover a pair of dark dejected eyes shyly entreating her own. They peered beneath a veil of ebony lashes, gently disclaiming the hard mouth and adamant chin. Stifling a sigh, Effie dropped her eyes and wondered how anyone could appear so cruel, vulnerable, and incredibly handsome all at the same time. She ventured another glance, but this time his languishing look shifted into something more ominous.
He reached into his pocket, withdrew an envelope, and bitingly announced: “This letter pertains to you.”
She stretched out her hand to receive it, but he held it out of her reach.
*The above is an excerpt from THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER, pages 158-159.
B.W. Wright wrote this letter–dated November 8, 1924–to the real Effie Belle Butler, my grandmother. I named the fictional “Effie” after her.