A Glimpse into Nell
The following is background on a new character from a new story -- Aunt Nell's Hidden Past -- in the genre of cozy mystery. This cozy mystery is more of a puzzle to solve rather than a crime story to reveal, and it will have elements of both current day events, and activities taking place in Europe during the era of the Cold War.
Nell had always loved secrets — learning about them, keeping them, and holding them for her advantage. As a preteen, when they lived in Virginia and her grandmother’s old china cabinet was given to her for storing a collection of animal figurines, Nell hid her diary behind it in a small recessed space. It was a top priority to her that no one know where her most private thoughts were hidden.
She put edible treats there too, such as candy bars taken from sister Stacy’s Halloween stash. And, boxes of Jello that, when it came right down to it, were the cheaper versions of Lik-M-Aid sticks, flavored sugar in straws that turned her tongue terrible colors. She’d eat those when banished to her room for some act of disobedience. Usually that amounted to running off without permission and scaring her mother Marilyn for hours until finally coming home, often oblivious to tears in the knees and elbows of her clothing, scrapes on knuckles, and dirt on her face.
Worse, Nell would refuse to explain how such disarray came about. Not that the petty theft and secrecy activities were more egregious than falling out of a tree, or shimmying under a fence, or tripping while running across somewhere that had been clearly marked no trespassing.
Nell could be outgoing when she felt like it, always curious about why others did what they did, or liked what they liked. Small talk bored her, though, as did topics of fashion, babies, and recipes. She craved substance, conversation with meaning that went somewhere illuminating.
She made friends more easily with those of her peers who were not in the in-crowd, feeling protective of them, especially the new kids whose families moved a lot. Especially with the boys. Most of the girls didn’t quite know what to make of her, and she didn’t really care. Nell thought most of them were too silly and surface to be interesting to her.
Nell’s diary was filled with questions about why things were the way they were, and starting from around the age of 12 she had a growing sense of her life having a special purpose or mission. She just couldn’t see clearly what it was until her dad was assigned to a post in West Berlin.
Duncan had a great influence on his daughters, and Nell especially wished she knew more about what his job really was. She paid more attention than he realized to his vague but complex sounding explanations, and learned as if by osmosis how to do the same thing when challenged about her whereabout or real intentions.
An innate feminist, it never made sense to Nell that females were regarded as less serious, less competent, more emotional than males, for she knew none of that was true about her, especially if her mother was the stereotype of the “real” woman. Secretly, Nell felt sorry for her mother, who seemed to need help with everything, and incapable of making a decision without consulting Duncan.
What a miserable way to go through life, Nell thought, then wondered if her mother was faking it for approval. Marilyn liked being approved of, whether by her husband, his bosses, or the women’s groups she joined as if doing so was an essential part of her roles as wife and mother.
But when, at nearly 50 years old, Nell inherits custody of Cole, 14, and Dasha, 11, she begins to realize that raising kids was harder than it looked, and took more diplomatic negotiation than she had given her mother credit for.