FEATURE: Belle Blackburn

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I was the little nerdette with a library card in my kindergarten hand, reading the kiddie books and planning what I would write. Come college time accounting seemed a more certain way to bring in a dollar so journalism was a minor. Writing was put on the back burner while dollars were made and kids and parents were raised, however, reading was always on the front burner. Probably my biggest influences would be Susan Howatch, Diana Gabaldon and Margaret Mitchell. A conversation with my husband 20 years earlier about suicide vs. murder percolated in the back of my mind and then announced it wanted to be written. I obeyed and out came The Doctor’s Daughter: Journey to Justice. The history of Nashville during the Civil War is just so interesting and so important at that time but most people won’t sit down with a history book so I sneaked the history and the antebellum law and medicine in with a good story. The story continues with a second book, The Doctor’s Daughter: The Choice.

Excerpt from The Doctor’s Daughter: Journey to Justice 

Curiosity got the best of me.  I just had to know.  “Is it true you cut up dead people for practice?”

He seemed entertained by the question.  “Yes, that’s true.”

I turned toward him.  “Where do you get them?”

“I don’t know.  It’s against the law to dig people up but there is no law against importing bodies from somewhere else.  They arrive at the school in some odd packages.  You never know what you are going to find when a crate or big bag arrives.  So we just don’t ask any questions.”

I shuddered.

“I really enjoy the surgery on live people much more.  I was one of hundreds who got to watch a brain tumor being removed recently.”

I had no idea what the appropriate response to seeing a brain tumor removed would be so I sat silently, watching the familiar buildings go by as we got closer to town.  I spoke this time.  “So why did you go to the bee and why did you invite me tonight?”

“The usual reasons,” he said with a hook on the end, like I was asking a redundant question.

“What usual reasons?”

“The same reason any other man would.  You understand.”

“Actually no, I don’t,” I said sharply, fearing what he was going to say, wondering what horrible things he had presumed of me, perhaps making assumptions due to my notoriety.

“You…,” he started, then stopped and stared at me.  “You really don’t understand, do you?”  I returned his stare with hostility.

Suddenly laughter bubbled out of him.  I could feel a flush of irritation and was thinking he might need to be slapped.  Why did I come tonight?

He stopped laughing, laid his head back on the seat for a bit, then he straightened up and turned to me.  He spoke very quietly.  “Kate, you have to know how you can affect a man?”

I spoke almost inaudibly, feeling like a child.  “No.”

He put his arm on the back of the seat.  His voice was soothing and he spoke slowly.  “You have the most beautiful face.”  His finger lightly traced my cheek.  “Those eyes of yours are the brightest shimmery blue, with the darkest and longest lashes I have ever seen.  Every emotion flashes through them.  I can see your thoughts just by watching your eyes.”  His finger lightly brushed my lower lip.  “Your smile induces a feeling like as if I had taken a sockdologer.  It renders me nearly breathless.  I can’t think of anything in this world more beautiful than seeing you smile.  That is what I remember from that bee – you laughing while you were dancing.  And that is the answer as to why I went to the bee. I went to see that.  It illuminated the room.  You cast a magic spell about you, whether you know it or not.”

I remained speechless.  His behavior seemed to border on the forward and unacceptable but I was unsure if this was typical courting or not.

“You have this perfect porcelain skin and shiny black hair.”  He fingered a tendril of hair by my ear.  “But you know what I admire the most?”  I shook my head mutely.  “Your hands.”  He tugged off my gloves, picked up my hand and ran his thumb back and forth across the top of it as he spoke.  “They are the most delicate thing about you – completely graceful and elegant.  I will admit to you that at the bee when I saw you wipe your chin with your hand, it was the most enticing thing I believe I have ever seen.”  I slid my hand out of his and laced my fingers together.

I was grateful it was dark in the carriage so he hopefully did not see me close my mouth, which I discovered was hanging open.  I wondered how he would feel if he knew that just the day before the elegant hand he had been holding had been covered in hog shit the entire day.  I rubbed my fingers against the palm of the other hand surreptitiously, reassuring myself that the lard I used faithfully every day was disguising the effects of farm work.

I had absolutely no idea anyone could see me the way he did.  Mothers did not shield their children’s eyes when I passed but I never imagined any man would describe me like he just had.

“Does this come as a surprise to you?”

“Um,” I stuttered, “somewhat.”  I sat for a minute before I volunteered, “I’ve never really been courted before.”

He let out a small harrumph.  “That would be easily explained.  It’s not for lack of interested men.  You don’t welcome attention so much.  I have been on the receiving end of those fiery blue eyes when trying to approach you.  It can be a little daunting.  It can actually be mighty daunting, especially to the faint of heart.  But I considered you worth pursuing persistently.”  He took my hand again.

It was surprising what flattery does for the flatterer, transforming them into something more attractive than they previously were.  Some of the dread regarding the evening seemed to dissipate.  I certainly enjoyed looking at myself through his eyes and sat quietly thinking about what he had said.

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