Marjorie Muro was raised in Evansille Indiana. Upon graduation from high school, she moved to Southern California where the seeds for her first book Ladies of the Canyon were planted. She completed a Masters progam in Political Science and worked for the Los Angeles Police Department as a Personnel Analyst for 15 years and as the Los Angeles Special Events Coordinator for the Mayor and City Council for three years.
Marjorie has two grown children, a son and
daughter, and lives with her feisty little black pomeranian, Tessie, in
the beautiful red rock surrounded town of Sedona in Northern Arizona.
She shielded her eyes with her left hand and gave the house a good going over. When she tilted her head back to look up, her light brown hair hung in tangled ringlets to the waist of her plaid jumper. Her serious little face was completely focused, creating creases at the corners of her hazel eyes. The asphalt shingles were falling off certain parts of the siding, but the hundred year-old wooden turrets were beautifully ornate, although broken in certain sections. Someone had painted the eaves and trim a dark forest green, which Annabelle liked. Then she spotted the small porch on the second floor. It was open but framed by a carved railing. It looked as though it were exactly adjacent to her bedroom. She instantly claimed this as her own. She had read stories about Indians who believed they had sacred spots on the earth from which they absorbed power. She knew that porch would become her sanctuary.
It was beginning to get dark as her mother opened the front screen door and called her to supper. Annabelle walked up the sidewalk, up the two cement steps, across the wooden porch and into the dim entryway. It was lit only by a bulb dangling from a long cord on the high ceiling and the wallpaper had begun to detach itself from the stairwell walls. She followed her mother slowly climbing the staircase until Mother crossed the landing and opened the door to Annabelles room. Annabelles room, she still didnt believe it and wasnt sure she would be able to get used to it. Somehow she didnt think she was the kind of girl who was supposed to have a room. Maybe it was wrong and when people found out, they would smirk, What makes you think you are good enough to have a whole room of your own? What pretenses from trash like you.
She walked from her room across the dark living room, went into the kitchen and sat at the chrome and gray plastic table. Her mother placed in front of her a bowl of chili beans and spaghetti. It tasted good. It was the best thing her mother cooked . She knew she didnt eat the same things the other kids in school did. She didnt even know the names of vegetables until she was old enough to go to the market and shop for herself, but she was never hungry. Her dad cooked a lot of fried meat and eggs and potatoes.
As she ate her chili, Annabelle asked her mother if she could go out onto the porch next to her room after dinner. Her mother looked at her as though it were a strange request but said she thought it would be okay as long as Annabelle was careful and didnt get too close to the edge and fall off. Also, she said she thought it was a better place for her to play than to mix with the riff-raff that probably lived in a neighborhood like this.
After dinner, Annabelle went through the living room, across her bedroom and stood before the door that led to the porch. She experienced a great anticipation, as though something momentous and life-changing were about to occur. She placed her hand on the knob and turned. The door was not locked but was warped from years of immobility and dampness, it opened only enough for Annabelle to be able to peer out into the darkness. In the glow from a distant street light, she could see the torn and crumbled black roofing sheets that lined the porch floor. She saw an area of about eight square feet that she immediately claimed as her own. No one wanted to go there.
No one would disturb her there.
She would make it
It was summertime and Annabelle did not have to start school for several weeks. That was fine with her. She loved books and reading about things but she was tired of always being the new kid, the one no one knew and who knew no one. She was tired of being whispered about because her clothes were old and worn. She was tired of being the odd man out. She was more comfortable alone.
She would not be able to actually go out onto her porch until her father returned from where ever he was and pulled open the jammed door for her. That was fine, she was used to waiting for things and she was happy just knowing that small part of the universe existed. It was waiting for her too. She spent two days walking around her new neighborhood. Theirs was the only house left standing. Next door was a used car lot, on the other side was a donut shop where a nice man named Uncle Pete gave her free donut holes. Across the street was an auto parts store and next to that a hardware store. No other children or families, good, Annabelle preferred it that way, fewer questions, less embarrassment.
She spent her days bouncing a hard rubber ball against the sidewalk and the house. She was good. She could clap her hands under her knee and spin around once before she caught the returning sphere. She was trying for two spins but hadnt been able to accomplish that yet. She could run too. Sometimes she ran so fast that her feet actually left the ground and she felt as though she were running the full length of the block without touching down. But that was impossible, wasnt it? She played jacks and hop scotch and solitare. Then one day, as she was coming out of the donut shop with a bag of her favorites, the donut holes with colored sprinkles, she saw her dads old gray pickup truck pull into their driveway. She ran to him and threw her arms around him, which was no easy feat. He was not tall but was rotund. He loved to cook and loved to eat. His friends called him Round Man. As in, Round Man whered you get such a pretty daughter? She surely caint be yours! He laughed and hugged her. She felt safe when he was home.
He always brought Annabelle a present when he returned from where ever it was he went. Once it was a beautiful white wool jacket, the embroidered brown girl on the back had long black yarn braids and wore a sequined dress. He usually brought her mother perfume called Midnight in Paris. It came in blue bottles, as dark as the night, and made Annabelles mother happy for a few days. Then her parents would have a terrible fight, her mother would show Annabelle her bruises at the breakfast table in the morning. It made Annabelle feel sick and confused and helpless. Then her father would go away for a while and the cycle would begin again.
This time, he did not bring Annabelle a gift but instead, asked her what she would like to have, now that she was becoming a young lady. She was perched on his lap, her favorite place in the world, and thought about many things she would like to have, finally she told him, roller skates! I want to have the kind with a key to hang around my neck, like the picture I saw in a book. I want to skate like the wind! But first, I would like you to open the door to my porch please.
Her father loved her. He opened the door to her porch. He sanded the edges so that she could open it herself. He placed a bolt lock on the inside to keep her safe from intruders, and he bought her a pair of roller skates. Then, he left again, as he always eventually did. He left her and her sad mother. They knew he would come back, they just did not know when. Their lives had changed from moving place to place to having a home and always waiting for their man to return.
Annabelle spent the summer on her porch making paper dolls from catalogs they received in the mail, sewing tiny doll clothes from scraps and reading hundreds of books she would lug home from the library six blocks away. She set herself a goal of reading every book in the library until she realized they were bringing in new ones when she wasnt looking. She was gloriously happy on her porch, just as she had known she would be. If only she could stay there forever, of course she couldnt.
Fall came, the old house began to chill at night, and school was about to start. Annabelle was going to be attending Brandt Junior High School, which was two miles from their house. She would walk because there was no car when her father was absent. That was not a problem as long as the climate was moderate. The immediate problem was clothing. Annabelle had only summer shorts and tee shirts and her mother had no money, so they went to the local Catholic Church and searched the charity bins. By the time they arrived, all that was left was boys jeans and flannel shirts and boots. This was at a time when teenaged girls wore matching sweater sets and saddle shoes.
The first day of school for Annabelle was just like every other one of her life. She was a stranger and a pitifully odd one. No one spoke to her except one teacher who announced to the class that this was, Annabelle, who has attended ten different schools already, and shes only 12. Annabelle, you must remember, A rolling stone gathers no moss.. To this day, Annabelle has not decided whether gathering moss is a good thing or a bad thing. However, at that point in time it seemed that she was being publicly excoriated for some terrible failure and left the classroom in tears. No one came to see to her and when the bell finally rang, she shamefully sneaked into the back row of the next class on her schedule.
This was her all-time favorite class, English Literature. The teacher was pleasant middle-aged man, but to Annabelle he seemed like a prince of some kind. He wore a sport coat with a white shirt open at the collar and sat perched nonchalantly on the edge of his desk. He announced in senatorial tones that, There will be no homework assigned in this class. Together we will discover the intrigue and mystery of the English language. In other words, I am going to read to you for one hour each day in the hope that it will inspire you to go to the library and read voluntarily on your own. We will begin today by reading The Speckled Band by Sherlock Holmes. He read each day to a room filled with spell-bound teenagers until he reached the last titillating page at which time he announced, Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to know the identity of the murderer, you must go to the library, check out the book and read it for yourself. There was a mad rush to the library by adolescents who had never entered those hallowed halls in their lives, Annabelle remained behind.
As she sat alone gathering her things for the next class, the teacher approached her. Dont you want to know who the murderer is Annabelle? Oh, she said, I know already. I read all the Sherlock Holmes stories this summer.
Thats terrific! he exclaimed. You should join the book club that meets after school on Wednesdays. You would love it and you would be a wonderful addition!
Annabelle looked at him and with a determined look explained, Look at me! Take a good look! Im a freak! I wear old clothes that used to belong to boys. I live in a shack that I cant take anyone home to. Nobody in this school will even speak to me in the halls. Get real! Just leave me alone. She walked out of the classroom with as much dignity as she could muster with a trembling lip and hot tears rolling down her cheeks, and went home. She slept on her porch that night wrapped in a blanket under the stars.
She mentioned none of this to her parents. Her mother lived in a constant state of misery and she wanted the time with her father to be positive so that he would love her.
The following week, Annabelles mother came to sit beside her on her porch where she was reading Jane Eyre. Annabelle, she began,I got this letter today from a modeling agency here in town that says you have been nominated by one of your teachers at school for a scholarship they offer in Public Speaking and Self-Confidence. They want us to come over for a conference next Wednesday after school. What do you think?
Annabelle took the letter, read it, and knew who the teacher was and what he was trying to do for her. She was ready to accept anything that could possibly give her a way out of this poverty. She said, Oh yes, Momma! I want to go.
There was never anything
said to Annabelle by her mentor, nor she to him, but her smile at him
the next day was beatific and spoke a million words. As she and her mother
prepared for the Wednesday interview at Miss Rosealees Finishing
School, Annabelle mused aloud the possibility of cutting her long locks
to a more fashionable length. Her father, who was home for a short while
firmly told her, Sweetheart, there are women who would give all
their precious jewelry for a glorious head of hair like yours, you would
be a fool to cut one inch. She had never thought that she might
be pretty, she was always too concerned with not being considered subhuman.