|The Queen of January
Author: James Hampton PM
She sits in a gilded palace, a woman frozen in time, gazing out from her mansion's tall windows onto a world that is warm, vibrant, and alive. Now, thanks to an unlikely friendship, the Queen of January may finally have a chance to relinquish her crown...2 of 10 chapters currently posted.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Fantasy/Friendship - Chapters: 2 - Words: 1,947 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 06-27-12 - Published: 06-20-12 - id: 3034243
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Even now, several years later, I can easily see her face, and hear her voice, in my mind: Alice Mae Cranfield, the Queen of January.
January was the name of the Cranfield family's winter estate here on Greene Island, Georgia. The Cranfields were New York-bred: Alice's father, Edward, had been a prosperous banker with the firm of Overstreet & Company in Manhattan. He assumed leadership of the company in 1909 following the death of its founder, Preston Overstreet, on nearby Jekyll Island. In fact, it was the late Preston Overstreet who originally introduced Edward Cranfield to coastal Georgia, and Ed had been so struck by the region's beauty that a decade later, after he'd accumulated sufficient wealth, he purchased the tract which would eventually become January: twenty-five acres of live oaks, cabbage palms, and winding trails fronting the southernmost shoreline of Greene Island, the barrier island off the coast of Georgia where I grew up. Each winter the Cranfield clan—made up of Alice, her brother, and their parents—would pack up, corral a few trusted servants, and bustle southward to Greene Island, usually just after New Year's Day. Alice, very young at the time, had somewhere along the line taken to calling the place "January" since that was the month they always came down here, and the name caught on.
Some background: my name is Kevin Hughes, and when it comes to timing, mine could probably use a little work. I say that because, after graduating from high school in 2004, when things were pretty good economically, I graduated from college in 2008, when things weren't so good anymore. I know that wasn't my fault, and I really don't think it's anybody's. Having known Alice, I'm convinced there are forces at work in this world we can't even begin to comprehend, and so we just have to manage alongside them instead. In other words, for the most part, things just happen.
What happened to me specifically is that, despite my attendance at a well-respected school, despite my earning a degree with academic distinction, despite my having amassed a good mix of extracurricular activities and work experience, I couldn't find a job when I got out of school. My mother and father are big fans of the late, quintessentially Southern comedian Jerry Clower, and some of that love rubbed off on me. He had a great joke about how parents need not fret over the kids they send out into the world; those kids, he counseled, would eventually come back…and they'd be bringing more kids with them. Well, I was one of those kids who came back, although, to the relief of my parents, I didn't bring any new kids back with me. Of course, I had expected to move home for a little while, maybe a month or two during which I could weigh job offers from all the employers I felt sure were drooling over the resumes with which I had provided them. But as summer drew to a close, I had no offers. And as grateful as I was to be allowed to live with my parents, I knew I needed to do something here in town to contribute (and also, in the back of my mind, was the possibility I could earn enough money to move out again). So it was a need for money that led me to January.
And to Alice.