Now that I'm a few chapters into this work, I had to pause long enough to come up with at least a temporary cover idea, something to give it a bit of visual identity. I hope you like it.
50 YEARS EARLIER
"Ah-LEE-see-ah." Each syllable hard and sharp. That's how Mr. Peterson prounounced Alicia. Some people acted weird and that was okay by her; except her name wasn't Alicia. It was Alice. So it got on her nerves sometimes. She wondered if it ever irritated anyone else. Maybe Jerry (Jer-uh-MY-ah)? Or Billy (WILL-ee-yum)? Or maybe it was only—
"Miss Pen-der-gast, are you too deep in meditation to answer when called on?"
"Hypotenuse," Alice said. Mr. Peterson looked like he wanted to fuss at her for not paying attention, but since she had answered his question with the right answer, what could he really say? So he didn't.
He moved on to someone else and Alice zoned back out for the last fourteen minutes of geometry class. When the bell rang, she gathered her books and left, steering through her chattering classmates without a word. At her locker, she spun the combination, opened the clangy door, and stowed her books before relocking it. She had no need to tote books home. She had already done all her homework except geometry, and she would come to school five minutes early tomorrow to do that.
Out the door and down the steps of Diebold High she went. Four blocks later, she was home and curled up on her bed with the new book she had checked out from the library two days earlier, To Kill A Mockingbird. Mama said she couldn't read it, that it was trash, but Daddy said she could, so that was the end of that talk. She didn't know if Daddy had read it and thought it was good, or if he knew she was going to read it anyway and just found this way easier.
The main thing was, it was a great book. And she read in a magazine that it would be a movie soon. She hadn't even finished the book and already she couldn't wait for the movie. She heard someone clomp up the first four steps of the stairs, then she silently mouthed the words in perfect time as Mama hollered, "Alice Ann, time for supper!"
She left home the next morning at seven o'clock. Nine minutes later, she arrived at The Tennesseean, which was probably her favorite place of anywhere. She leaned up to the door and put her hand on her forehead to block the reflection of the glass so she could see inside the dark theater, then rapped five times on the glass. She didn't have to wait long. Mr. Dan showed up in the lobby and opened the door for her.
"Good morning, Miss Alice!" he said with the same big smile he wore every morning. "How are you this beautiful day?"
"Why just pretty good?" he said, his smile fading a bit.
"Have to get to school early to finish some homework." She scrunched up her face and stuck her tongue out.
"Well, what a burden, my young one," he said, the smile blooming again. "Come on, I have something to show you."
Mr. Dan relocked the door and headed toward the stairway. Alice followed, taking in the smells she loved so much; popcorn, the carpet, all of it. At the top of the stairs they went right into the corridor, not straight ahead into the balcony. Then they turned right again and made their way up the cramped stairs to the room that said Projectionist on the door.
Inside the little room, Mr. Dan hooked a thumb and pointed to a countertop beside the big projector. On the countertop were two film containers, the kind that films got delivered in. Her face lit up. "What are they?"
"Don't know," he said. "Waited so you could open them."
Now her smile was as big as his. "Thanks, Mister Dan." Alice went to the counter, grabbed the wire cutters off the little tool shelf above it, and quickly snipped the twisted wire that sealed the top container. She pulled the wire seal out and tossed it in the trash can on the floor, then started opening the latches on the container. When they were all undone, she looked back over her shoulder and said, "Here we go!" She lifted the top off the container and her eyes went wide. Squealing like a little girl, she hopped up and down and clapped, then turned around and beamed at her friend. "Come see!" she said.