When my husband Eric and I became empty nesters, we moved into our dream house on our dream property in Nowheresville, Texas. We expected to love our place. What surprised us was how much we loved the people in our community. They welcomed us warmly.
One night we were at an opening for an antique mart. There was a display of 70s-80s women’s clothing including a long white linen gown. Something about the gown called to me. Not as an art piece. I wanted to put it on myself and wear it. I picked it up, admiring it, and Stephanie—the most authentic, open, empathic creature I’d ever met—walked up to me and told me the story of the dress, which goes something like this:
A woman appeared in a house in Nowheresville, moved there by those “close” to her, suddenly and somewhat forcibly. They’d packed up dirty dishes in her sink, they were in such a hurry to exile her from Houston—where she’d lived and been an art gallery owner until she started experiencing health issues. She wasn’t in great shape. People got to know her, a little. Enough to know she was never seen without her devoted little dog.
She hadn’t been seen for a few days, when her little dog broke out a window in her house and went for help. Neighbors found her collapsed. She survived, but moved into a facility that could provide her greater care. Some time after her death, Stephanie’s family bought the house the woman had lived in, the one her dog had broken out of to save her. Stephanie spent weeks going through the woman’s things, getting to know her, connecting to her, and, ultimately, telling me her story.
The story she told me summoned the muse, and instantly a fictional version was born in my head. I bought the dress and wore it while I drafted Fighting for Anna. I wrote an ending for the dog, whose story no one seemed to know.
I’ve left out most of the good details Stephanie shared with me, and possibly better ones that she didn’t. But that’s okay. My story to tell was Gidget’s. The other belongs to Stephanie, and I hope she writes the true account some day.