The cupola looked out on vast Lake Erie. At least, it was vast to Alice since she’d not yet seen the ocean, but she had read about it. According to maps, a lake paled in comparison to an ocean. Her thoughts traveled on the vessels she saw in the lake; many had made it through the canal. She guessed what goods they carried and made up stories about the people who would receive something crafted from the materials. Sometimes it was lumber, and at other times, granite.
Alice enjoyed the silence of the out-of-the-way space; the curious eyes of her mother and father weren’t upon her. Those glances didn’t come often because Alice was the youngest child in the Bayless family, and she was a girl.
As the youngest, it seemed George and Clara Bayless were plumb tired of taking care of children. As she saw it, the three boys had worn them out and there was little left for Alice. They had loved her since the day she had been born and there had never been a question about that— Clara and George had just been through it all three times and it wasn’t so interesting anymore.
Being a girl, Alice had fewer expectations. She was to learn proper etiquette, marry a man of her father’s choosing, and never say anything controversial. She had math and geography lessons, but they weren’t as important as they had been to Arthur, Roy, and Fred.
Every chance she got, Alice slipped up to the cupola to do the things she truly enjoyed. It started out as reading only. As soon as she could make sense of words on paper, she couldn’t get her hands on enough books. Reading opened her mind up to many ideas and she started dreaming of life somewhere other than Buffalo, New York. That led to keeping a journal and then writing her own stories.
Alice had liked Buffalo fine but the more she read about distant places—the American West, in particular—the more she craved something different. It seemed like a place where she could live with more freedom. She could read when she wanted, and the thing she wanted most was possible: to write professionally.
Alice was dreaming of a future as a writer when the loud clanging pulled her out of her reverie. Her mother knew she’d be in the cupola when no one had seen her. It was accessible only by an iron spiral staircase. Clara Bayless said her knees weren’t what they used to be, and she wasn’t risking her life to fetch her daughter. She routinely stood at the bottom step and hit it with the kitchen spoon.
“Is it dinner time already?” Alice said.
She started to climb down, but first she extinguished her lantern. Alice did not want to burn down their cherished mansion. That would be something that would grab the attention of her parents, but it would be the unfavorable sort.
“Sunday dinner is always at five sharp. If Roy and Fred can make it in time from across town, you can certainly be prompt,” Mrs. Bayless said. “They have wives and little ones to gather. You have nothing and only need to walk down a flight of stairs.
“The clock says it’s only four-fifteen. I could have been reading for another forty-five minutes,” Alice noted.
“You are helping Dora with the serving plate selection and deciding which utensils go with each dish. When you first marry, it’s likely you won’t have servants. You will have to know how to arrange for a dinner party. Napkin folding is another thing you can practice,” Mrs. Bayless pointed out.
“I’ll do it since it pleases you,” Alice replied. “I won’t do it for my future husband since he’s not going to care about things so trivial.” Alice smiled as she said it.
Alice had rarely agreed with her mother, but they didn’t argue often. Clara Bayless was sweet and non-controversial. She really felt helping Dora was the best thing for Alice and her future. Alice’s mother had grown up with a particular set of rules, and she was merely passing them on to her daughter. She didn’t realize that times were changing, and women had more choices than ever before.
“Has becoming a maid in America been a dream of yours for long?” Alice asked Dora, whose accent revealed she was from Ireland.
They stood in front of a sliding door to the cabinet. It took up an entire wall of the kitchen and had nothing but platters, bowls, and anything else you could serve food upon. There were porcelain, silver, pewter, and others made of materials Alice couldn’t name. There were special dishes for Christmas, Easter, and more. It amazed Alice to see how much time, effort, and money had been dedicated to serving dishes. The whole thing seemed quite absurd.
“Oh, no. I left Ireland when my pa had been unable to find work. It had been the same way for his father and so on. We thought this would be better and it is, but I want more. It probably doesn’t make sense to someone like you who has it all,” Dora stated.
Alice realized that her feelings weren’t unique. There was nothing wrong with her desire to experience something different and new. Like Dora, she loved her family but knew there was life beyond the mansion on Lake Shore Drive. Was Dora right? Did she already have it all? It didn’t seem that way.
“I understand that and hope someday you find what you’re looking for,” Alice said as she took a platter down from the shelf.
“From the way you’re talking, I’m guessing you have desires to seek a different life, too.”
“I do. There is a lot of life to live, and I’d like a taste of it. As you can see, however, my family has other plans for me.”
“Good luck. I hope that at least one of us has our dreams come true,” Dora said.
“Best of luck to you, too. Already you’ve made it further than me in crossing an entire ocean. I’d better scurry upstairs and wait for the arrival of my brothers. I hope I’ve been of some help, though I don’t think I’ll remember much about serving dishes.”
They both laughed before Alice ran up the steps. She walked out to the dining room and saw Arthur and her father walking in with drinks in their hand. It was their routine to share a drink by the fire before the evening meal.
Mr. Bayless sat at the head of the large oblong table. Arthur sat to one side of him and the next closest was Fred, then Roy. Then came the three wives and Mrs. Bayless, who sat nearest the kitchen. If something was needed and a servant wasn’t handy, it would be convenient for her to retrieve it. Alice sat farthest away from her father. The setup allowed the men to talk business, the wives to brag about their needlework, and Alice to wish she were elsewhere. The children, all under six years old, were cared for by nannies in another room.
Mr. Bayless said the prayer before the meal and the boys jumped right into business talk. Alice’s father owned an import company that moved products along the Erie Canal. Buffalo’s increase in popularity and building boom was a result of the canal. Roy and Fred managed the company barges and Arthur helped run the company. When their father retired, Arthur was going to take it over, and after him, his son, Arthur III. He was only two, but that was the plan.
“We must be boring you, Alice. Is there anything interesting happening in your little life?” Arthur asked.
All eyes were upon her. It was her moment to come up with something interesting to say.
“I’ve been reading a great deal and writing stories as well,” she blurted out.
Alice was caught off guard and couldn’t think of anything more exciting to say. She thought for a moment and realized she hadn’t had much excitement—not the type they would understand, anyway. She had recently read The Three Musketeers, which was the type of book most boys enjoyed. Maybe if she brought it up, it would begin a conversation about the book.
Alice opened her mouth to mention it, but the conversation quickly moved back towards business. She was locked out until there was a very brief pause in their discussion, so she jumped in.
“I have a question,” she said. “I suppose it’s to any one of you, really. I’d like to spend a day on a barge; perhaps I’ll travel between two ports. I’ll write up what I see and deliver it to you, Father. I would love to show you how I write, and this would regard a topic you’re all interested in. Who knows? There might be a place in Bayless Imports for me after all.”
Fred was the first to laugh. He was the closest in age to Alice at twenty-four. He was only four years her senior but had been treated like a man since he turned eighteen. Roy soon joined by adding a few chuckles and then the rest, as if Alice had just told an uproarious joke.
“You’ll have your hands full when you start a family. Having a husband who can join the company is all any of us ask of you,” Arthur said. “A barge is the last place for a woman. I can’t begin to explain how inappropriate that would be. It would be even worse if my own sister was seen onboard.”
“I can’t imagine seeing a girl in a dress being able to make her way around a moving vessel,” Roy added through tears of laughter.
“She’d end up on her bottom at the first sign of rough water,” Arthur said.
“A woman isn’t tough enough for a barge. Her stomach would churn with sickness. Arthur is right not to allow your foolish request,” Mr. Bayless stated.
Alice was quiet for the rest of the meal and skipped dessert. That was a sure sign that she was upset—the chocolate cake was served, and it was her favorite.
Dora and Nellie cleared the table as Mrs. Bayless and Alice lingered.
“Dora, be a dear and brew Alice a cup of peppermint tea,” Mrs. Bayless directed.
She noticed Alice skipped dessert, so she must have assumed her daughter had an upset stomach. The tea was a well-known elixir for stomach maladies.
“Thank you, mother,” Alice said. “Do you agree with Father and the boys that a woman doesn’t belong on a barge?”
“Absolutely.” She tittered. “Not only would a woman instantly be sick, but she would also be stepping into a man’s world. They work hard and deserve their time away from women. As women, we have plenty of things to keep us busy. There are times I believe there aren’t enough hours in the day.”
“I see your point, but I would be there as a writer. I would be someone there to tell their story. I thought it could be a chance for me to show that I can write and I’m not just wasting my time in the cupola. I might help if they could see their workplace through the eyes of an outsider.”
“No one thinks your time is wasted with your books and writing. There are worse things you could be biding your time with,” Mrs. Bayless pointed out.
“Biding my time?” Alice asked incredulously.
“Yes—it’s something to do before you become a married woman. I might choose different books, but you’re at an age when you can choose your own reading material. As long as it’s not too torrid, I manage to look the other way,” she remarked.
Alice was disappointed in her mother’s views, but not surprised.
“Writing is in my blood and I’m not simply biding my time. You above anyone else should understand that since Gustav Geiger was your father. My passion for writing comes from Grandpa Gus. He’s my inspiration,” Alice said.
Mrs. Bayless became dewy-eyed as she recalled her father. “I loved my father, but he was a dreamer. He never made money from the hours he spent writing.”
“Grandpa Gus was happy and that’s all I remember. He told me once that if you don’t have dreams, dreams can’t come true. I dream of being a writer in a professional capacity and I’m not quite ready to give up on my dream,” she stated firmly.
Alice and her mother went back and forth until her teacup was empty. As usual, Mrs. Bayless was unable to sway her daughter, and vice versa. Alice didn’t doubt the benefits of marriage but would never sacrifice her writing. She longed to find a man to respect her craft and love her even more because of it. Alice bid her mother goodnight and retired to her bedroom.
Alice was no longer afraid when the windows rattled in the cupola during a windstorm. The weather came off the lake with wind and sometimes rain. In the winter, it was snow coming across the frozen water. She often closed her eyes and took the clattering noises as voices that only she could hear. Alice wasn’t crazy—just creative.
She sat with one of her Grandpa Gus’s journals in her lap. They had been passed on to Alice after he had died, and she was only fifteen. He believed she’d get the most out of them because she read and wrote as voraciously as he had. She had felt, from that point forward, to live the dream that never came true for him. Somehow, she had to find a way to write in a way that people would read her works. She had heard some say a girl marries a man like her father. Alice was hoping she’d marry a man like her grandfather. He was a gifted writer but more importantly, he had a twinkle in his eye, a laugh in his belly, loved family, and worked hard. She knew the chances of finding a man like that were slim, but she’d dream.
Alice was about to doze off to sleep when she saw a terrible sight in the distance. It was a sinking ship. She didn’t hear anything since the blasting wind blocked all other sounds out. Calling for help would be fruitless since it was there and then it wasn’t in a matter of two minutes. It wasn’t a barge—that gave her solace since it meant her brothers weren’t on board. Alice impulsively picked up her notebook and wrote in vivid detail what she saw.
A mid-sized fishing vessel sank that could be seen from land near Lakeshore drive. It went down quickly amid an early spring storm that seemingly developed out of nowhere. No surviving souls could be seen swimming to shore and lifeboats were not released.
Alice continued to watch where the boat sank. No rescue attempts were made. If she hadn’t been a witness, no one would have known of the tragedy. It wouldn’t be until the families of those lost inquired that they would realize it was gone. It was news, and Alice had written about it.
Alice ran down the stairs and out the front door. She didn’t bother to tell her mother she was leaving. She neglected to grab an overcoat and her bonnet dangled down her back. With her notebook in hand and her golden hair flying in the wind, she made her way towards the Buffalo Daily Courier offices.
“I came right out when I heard there was an emergency,” P.J. Galinsky said. Was there a man here who I missed? Perhaps you saw him sitting her while you were waiting.”
P.J. Galinsky was the paper’s editor and Alice knew this from listening to her father. He would often complain that he printed garbage stories based on gossip. Those stories were often ones that involved Bayless Imports. If the words were favorable, he just smiled and nodded in agreement.
Alice looped her stray hairs around her ears and flattened the creases of her skirt. She took a heavy breath and focused her hazel eyes.
“I am the emergency. I witnessed a vessel sink in the lake from my home on Lakeshore Drive. It’s at the end of the drive and I was in the cupola. It may not have been seen by anyone else but me on shore and there were no other boats in the area.” The words poured from Alice’s mouth.
“You aren’t one of my journalists or one of my usual sources. Are you looking to speak with a staff writer?” He asked.
“No, Mr. Galinsky. I’m Alice Bayless and I’m a writer. Here, see for yourself.”
She tore the page from her notebook and pressed it against his chest.
“This is highly irregular. Are you related to George Bayless?” he asked.
“Yes, he’s my father but this has nothing to do with that,” Alice assured him.
“That might be the real story—George Bayless’s daughter is forced to work by selling words,” Mr. Galinsky said with a half-smile.
“Oh, no. I’m not asking to be paid. I saw something, wrote about it, and I think the public might want to know,” Alice said urgently
Mr. Galinsky read her story and read it again. He seemed to be sizing her up when he looked at her from head to toe. He tapped his index finger on his cheek.
“I’ll check with the boys in the newsroom. If anyone has an interest, we’ll come to talk to you. We may need more information. Can we call on you at your home?”
“Most certainly. I’ll be at home waiting,” Alice said enthusiastically.
She ran from the brick office building as quickly as she had gone in. The smell of ink and the feel of urgency that hung in the air at the Buffalo Daily Courier was invigorating. It made Alice feel as she had never felt before. She wasn’t sure what the feeling was, but she knew she wanted more of it.
Alice waited patiently for word from the newspaper. She read, relaced the laces on her tie-up boots, and organized her writing desk. If it were much longer, what she saw would no longer be news. It would be a myth or just the ramblings of a bored young woman.
Alice had almost given up hope when she heard a heavy knock at the door. Her father was working at his off-site office and her mother was playing piano in the conservatory. She wouldn’t have to explain why she was meeting with someone from the paper. When her name was in print below the headline, it would be a surprise to all. Of course, she’d expect to share credit with one of the Buffalo Daily Courier’s more seasoned reporters.
She waited in the bedroom and finally, she heard the footfalls of Nellie. She gently tapped on Alice’s door.
“Yes, Nellie,” Alice said nonchalantly.
“Mr. Wrazen with the Buffalo Daily Courier is here to see you. He gave no details.”
“I’ll be right down. Please see that he has tea or anything else he needs.”
Alice pinned her hair and wore a white high-collared blouse. She stepped into a green skirt that skimmed the floor and when she glanced in the mirror, she nodded in approval. Alice looked slightly older than her twenty years, and dignified. Normally, high collars were the last thing she’d wear since they made her feel as if she were being choked.
She walked down the ornate staircase and into the parlor.
“Mr. Wrazen.” Alice extended her hand.
He hesitated at first as it wasn’t every woman who offered the gesture.
“You don’t look like I imagined. You write more confidently than a person your age normally writes,” he commented. “When P.J. mentioned you were a girl, I had to see it to believe it.”
“Writing is what I’ve been doing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Do you think it’s something that belongs in the paper?” she asked.
“P.J. said it was up to me and I think the story is newsworthy. I wanted to meet you to ensure that the incident wasn’t made up. I can see in your face that you’re not the lying type. Do you trust me to make minor changes?” Mr. Wrazen asked.
“Absolutely. I wrote as the ship slipped under the water, so I didn’t thoroughly look it over.” Alice paused for a bit to work up the courage to ask her next question. “Do you think I’ll be called upon in the future to write for the paper?”
Mr. Wrazen looked around the lavish parlor and probably considered the decorative foyer where he had entered. He was likely wondering what a girl of her status was doing in the cupola writing stories.
“You have promise as a writer, Miss Bayless. I’m certain you will hear from us soon.”
“That’s wonderful news. When will the article be in print?” Alice anxiously asked.
“I imagine it will be in Wednesday’s edition. I have to be going quickly because I have a deadline to meet. I’ll see myself out,” he said in a hurried manner.
Alice felt shivers run down her spine. She looked forward to the day she had deadlines to meet. Her father read the paper at breakfast every morning as soon as it arrived. It was so fresh off the press that the ink got everywhere if he wasn’t careful. She wasn’t going to say a word about the article until he saw her name. Alice wasn’t sure she had ever made her father proud. She was going to have a hard time sleeping as she thought about it.
Breakfast was a somber affair in the Bayless home. None of them liked the morning hours and it would take them some time before they perked up. The butler brought in the paper for Mr. Bayless.
Alice was puzzled since her father had not reacted at all.
“Is there anything interesting in the paper this morning?” Alice asked.
“Nothing that would be of your concern. There are days—I believe on Sunday—that they have a section for women. I’ll be sure to save it for you,” Mr. Bayless answered.
He discarded the front page after reading it and Alice immediately picked it up. She scanned the columns for her name, and it wasn’t there. However, there was an article that caught her eye. The headline read Boat Vanishes – Crew Presumed Dead, by Mr. William Wrazen. Alice’s heart sank as she read the article. It was as she had written it. Mr. Wrazen made a few minor changes, thereby making it his own.
She was a woman who Mr. Wrazen and Mr. Galinsky knew they could take advantage of. They were aware she came from money and didn’t need the exposure. If Alice asked for her father’s help in getting the recognition, he would push it aside. It would not look good for his daughter to be pursuing work at the Buffalo Daily Courier.
Alice wanted to cry but she couldn’t bear explaining her embarrassing situation. In two days she had failed twice. Once when she asked to write about the barge. Now she failed to get the recognition she deserved for an article she wrote. Alice was in desperate need of a boost and she knew the person who could give it to her.
“What are your plans today, Alice?” Mrs. Bayless asked.
“I’m visiting the library. I’m going to see if they have any new titles—and of course, I’m going to visit Mary,” Alice answered.
Speaking Mary’s name already made Alice feel better. She always had good ideas about how Alice could make her dreams come true.
“Escaping Destiny to Find Bliss” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Eager to follow her dream of becoming a writer, Alice Bayless decides to leave her parents and flee west. Although she boards a train with no exact destination in mind, she knows deep down that her destiny awaits. When she’s harassed by an inconsiderate passenger, she’s rescued by a charming man who immediately wins her over with his caring nature.
Could he be the ally she needs in her new adventure?
Henry Campbell is a fearless journalist on his way to investigate a story about a treacherous scammer. The last thing he expects while doing research is finding love, but when he meets Alice he realizes that there is one thing he’s truly missing; a caring life partner. Out of fear though, he keeps his profound attraction to her a secret…
Will his emotions be reciprocated if he opens up, or will he get brutally hurt?
The connection between Alice and Henry is undeniable, but neither of them dares to act upon it. When the Elegant Theater Company offers Alice a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Henry gets suspicious and tries to warn her… Can he uncover evidence before it’s too late or will Alice have to face the frightening consequences of her choice?
“Escaping Destiny to Find Bliss” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.