I’m delighted to be joined today by Eva, who has come from the pages of Seven for a Secret by Rumer Haven.
Seven for a Secret is a romantic tale told through two time periods, the year 2000 and the 1920s. Set in Chicago, each era follows its own love story, with the past and present interrelating through mystical means. Lon is the hero of the Jazz Age story, in which he meets a young socialite, Eva, who is betrothed to someone else. The two become fast friends and confidantes, however, sharing a connection they’ve never enjoyed before in their stifling upper-class milieu.
When Eva writes Lon a letter in Chapter XI (following the afternoon tea scene recently featured at author Claire Stibbe’s blog: https://clairestibbe.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/a-warm-welcome-to-rumer-haven/), he responds, “Let’s not pretend we weren’t appeasing the censors on that one. At least I hope that’s all it was.” Eva, you see, feels very guarded in what she dares to share, for fear that her husband might screen her correspondence or – worse yet – that Lon won’t reciprocate what she really has to say.
And what would she like to say? Here’s a draft of what she probably wrote and burned…
November 5, 1925
My dearest Lonnie,
I hope this letter finds you well and hopefully not torturing my kid sister somewhere on the lakefront. Remember, old boy, the temperature has dropped since summer, and she could catch cold. [Author’s note: Were this 2015, Eva would surely add a winky emoticon here.]
But truly, thank you for still entertaining my little pet on weekends. It’s more than I ever would have expected, having hardly seen or heard from her myself. Why bother with me when she has you? Would I bother with anyone else, given the choice? She fancies you, I suspect, and I can’t fault her there. But really, that doll? If it were anyone else buying it for her, I should think that toy is the last thing she’d want. But naturally she would turn nothing down from her dear Lonnie.
Neither would I. I can hardly pretend I don’t envy the time Ollie spends with you. It will break my heart if I, on the other hand, have lost your friendship when it’s all I yet cling to; as we long talked about and feared, I pray my marriage hasn’t caused just that. I still savor those summer evenings at the zoo, just the two of us. I yearn for them, really. Lying close to you on the grass in the twilight, our clothes dampening in the dew…your silhouette kissed by moonlight but your darkened face still so difficult to read when nose-to-nose with mine. I’m dying to know what has occupied your mind and heart since, if anyone else now lies by your side. I don’t hear much of what you’re up to but will assume no news is good news. And I’ll be very glad if you’re continuing to abstain from the usual temptations – though I do wish my particular presence hadn’t stifled those so thoroughly; when I had you to myself, I’d have liked if you gave in to your vices, just a little. Or a lot. With me, please know you can always give in to your passions so long as they’re true. I think I’d even welcome them if not.
I’m not expressing myself well. No, I’m not at all. What I’m trying to tell you so clumsily is that I couldn’t have more adoration – and love – for you, Lonnie. That dreadfully handsome face aside, your convictions are the most moving of anyone’s I know. You bring me to life, and your paintings – my God, your talent brings me to tears! You may feel you need to hide from everyone else’s judgment, but I, still and forever your Eva, am one person in this world who would never fault you for forsaking wealth and title for honest work and art. Although you realize as well I’m certainly not the only one who believes in you, and thank goodness for that. So drop the charades, old boy; you have nothing to prove to me but your undying affection, whatever the nature of it might be. As long as there is love in some form, you can trust that it’s requited.
I wish I could love my time in the countryside remotely as much – I keep waiting for the new landscape and fresh air to work its magic, for the little wood sprites to enchant and crown me their princess, but they do not speak to me like the Dream Lady does. Or once did. She’s grown quiet, even though my other memories scream straight into my heart. I can still see you that first night we met, how you circled her under the stars, standing so tall yet looking up with a child’s wonder. I loved you from that moment. So everyone can think I have everything a girl could ask for, but I don’t have you, for whom I’m homesick above all.
I returned to the city for my first time only the other day – afternoon tea with the ladies, old boy, so please don’t think I snubbed you. You’d have hated it anyway, though of course you can just imagine it, can’t you? The pageantry of it all, so vividly empty. You wouldn’t have believed the games of elocution my mother and mother-in-law competed in all the while; I’d have thought I was at the theatre, viewing a comedy of manners, were I not so painfully aware of the farce that’s become my “real” life. I envy Ollie that as well, how she can so easily detach from realities she doesn’t like. She was there but not there, and I tried so hard to not be there also. Sitting among the pomp and silly circumstance, all the peacocks sitting like stiff department store mannequins, I could think of nothing but you and those nights in the grass. So different than the lake breezes we’d breathe in and sigh out, the stale, sterile air in there nearly suffocated me. Oh, Lonnie, if you could have seen it – I actually swooned and spilled my tea everywhere! Even Ollie leapt to my behalf, dear thing, but it was all I could do to remove myself and cry in solitude.
But settling into a new life and duties has been a busy occupation, at least, which does help distract me from my thoughts. No, that isn’t true. I have abundance in everything, including time, more than enough to turn my thoughts to actions and contact you, or even try to see you if that’s what you wanted, too. But I know I haven’t tried, and I think we both know why; if you didn’t before, you surely do after reading this terribly inappropriate letter. I am so very sorry. For not communicating sooner and, now that I have, if I’ve offended you spectacularly with what I’ve said. Please forgive me on all counts, my darling – if I may call you that – and do write or telephone me without delay.
Ah, but you only need to contact me at this address this month because, whether you like it or not, I’m moving into the Wrightwood townhouse. Should all go to plan, I’ll be there well ahead of Christmas and staying in Chicago for the indefinite future – forever, if I have anything to say about it. What a fool I’ll feel if I arrive only to learn you’re no longer there. So please tell me now, can I pin my hopes on seeing you then?
If so, just imagine it, Lonnie! I suppose we’d be making snow angels at the zoo until spring, but in all other ways, it could be just like our old days of summer, made into something new.
With love and dreams,
To read Eva’s real letter to Lon and his response, you can find both in Seven for a Secret, where historical fiction meets contemporary rom-com – from the Roaring Twenties when the “New Woman” was born, to the modern Noughties when she really came of age.
About the Author
Rumer Haven is probably the most social recluse you could ever meet. When she’s not babbling her fool head off among friends and family, she’s pacified with a good story that she’s reading, writing, or revising – or binge-watching something on Netflix. A former teacher hailing from Chicago, she presently lives in London with her husband and probably a ghost or two. Rumer has always had a penchant for the past and paranormal, which inspires her writing to explore dimensions of time, love, and the soul. She debuted in 2014 with Seven for a Secret, and her next novel, What the Clocks Know, is due for release by Crooked Cat Publishing in early 2016.
Find more at www.rumerhaven.com.