By Leslie Lindsay
Della McCullough is derived from a real person who went by the same name. However, the real Della met her demise in 1876 head-on by a train–about 16 years prior to the start of my story. Hey–we writers can take creative liberty with these things, right?
As for what becomes of “new story” Della, well…she still dies but it’s not in childbirth (as depicted here), and it may not be by train accident, either. It’s still up for debate. So, here’s my attempt to get into Della’s 1893 small town mentality.
Della Hamilton McCullough
Near St. Louis, Missouri
The snow started to fall several hours before my labor began. A few flakes at first, and then plump flakes slapped the windows, materializing out of thin air. I watched, crippled over as waves of contractions ripped through my body. I counted the flakes as they landed on the front railing (twenty-three before losing count), melting into tiny puddles of water.
The snow should’ve been gone. It was spring after all. Last week, tiny crocuses sprouted; yesterday, tulips. Sprouting, I noted like my belly.
The wind whipped through the valley just as another contraction twisted around my back, undulating my midsection. I grimaced, glancing at the clock on the mantelpiece. Four-twelve. I considered calling for Henry at the mill.
Mary Clare, our nearest neighbor would be home; a mother of six—she’d know what to do. Or maybe she’d be too busy.
Another stab of pain shook me to the core, ripping my body in half. Outside, the budding branches of the trees grew heavy dappled in white. Then the back door opened, a slow creak. A rude frosty wind snaked through the kitchen, finding me in the front room, a chilling reminder that spring was a long way off. “Della! It’s me. It’s time, isn’t it, darling?”
Henry? I’d only thought of him, a mere consideration of calling him home, and now here he is.
I nodded and gripped the window sill, my breath making steam on the glass.
The door slammed shut just as knife sliced through my body, gouging my internal organs with its sinister laughter. This baby was coming, whether on time or not. I turned from the window and faced my husband. In his arms, he held a bundle of wood for the fireplace. He knelt, placing it near the hearth and then dusted his hands along his pants before approaching me near the window.
The room was dim, a murky gray-green illuminated by the gray sky, an orange glow from the fire, and the reflection from the snow making it appear brighter than it was. Brushing the brown tendrils away from my face, he placed a gentle kiss to my lips and then stood back, clasping my hands and admiring my swollen belly.
“I see it in your eyes; you’ll be a mother tonight, yes?”
I shook my head and looked through the steamy window, the orange and yellow faces of the tulips bent low in sorrow, “It’s too early. Doc Peters warned me about false labor.”
“Perhaps. It is three weeks ahead of schedule, and doc says first babies are usually late…” Henry’s voice trailed off as he struck a match, lighting a fire. I turned and fingered the quilt I’d lovingly worked on throughout my confinement.
“Besides, it’s snowing…I imaged something else all together…birds singing, a sunny day, a warm breeze,” and then another inner surge ripped through my body, a shudder of excitement, then fear tumbled through like foam pushed by a wave, a sea of emotions. I squeezed the quilt in my fists and gritted my teeth.
Henry stopped his work at the hearth and turned to look at me, his eyes concerned. “Sweetheart, have you timed them?”
I glanced at the clock. Four-forty-seven. “Yes, I suppose so. Henry, call Mrs. Wertz. I’m having our child tonight.”
[book image above retrieved from www.feedster.com on 11.15.13. [house image source: Extinct Towns of St. Louis, MO. http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/towns.htm. Note: This is *not* the real home of Della McCullough. It is, however my mind’s eye of what her home *may* have looked like.]