The Summer of Nancy Drew

Photo - property of Naomi Harvey

Photo – property of Naomi Harvey

It had been the summer of Nancy Drew mysteries and the slow, fond farewell to her collection of Barbie dolls. She was almost eleven, just at that age when a young girl is caught between childhood fancies and pre-teen yearnings.

Hard to believe she’d once been that young… that carefree. But she must have – the proof was in the photograph, the photograph she hadn’t viewed in years.

Brother Jack had come by the house to begin crating up all the minutia of fifty years of family life hidden in Mother’s attic.

Time now to say goodbye to the old house. Mother was gone, the stroke taking her – too soon, Mama, too soon! – from Maggie. Mother gone, and the vestiges of the past floating out the door like beloved ghosts surprised to find themselves suddenly set free.

Maggie, too, was now to be set free from the old Victorian that had been specially equipped. It was time to move on.

Sensing her sadness, Jack paused in the boxing up of family memories and looked at her apologetically. “I’m sorry, Mags, but it’s for the best. You know you can’t stay here – on your own, the house is too much for you.”

She knew he was right. Still, it was hard to hear. This was her home, her refuge from the world’s harsh, curious eyes.

“You could live with me and Molly, you know. We’d love to have you with us, and so would the kids.”

Maggie smiled at her younger brother. He was a good man, and his lie a gracious one. She knew he’d welcome her with open arms… but Molly? Poor Molly, was it fair? She had her hands full with the kids and a toddler who’d made her appearance rather late in their lives. No, Molly had enough to deal with. Besides, theirs was a small house with long, narrow hallways and steep stairs.

It was Jack who found the old carton of Nancy Drew books and cast-off Barbies in various stages of disrepair.

“Hey, Mags! Look at these,” he said, lifting one of the Nancy Drew books from the carton. “You always had your nose in a book. You certainly loved these old mysteries.”

I held my childhood favorite – ‘The Hidden Staircase’ – its pages smelled of yesteryear, a musty scent reminding me of long-ago summer days, me seated on the old metal glider on the back porch, working with Nancy to puzzle out the innocent crimes that confronted her.

Something buried within the pages suddenly drifted gently to the floor. Curious, I bent forward, trying to retrieve it.

A photograph.

“Here, let me get it, Mags,” chided Jack. “Be careful… you don’t want to tip over.”

The well-meant warning annoyed me, and it was with poor grace that I took the photo from him.

Gazing at a moment frozen in time, something inside me suddenly bloomed. Something I’d long thought dead; the feeling of being free.

Look at her!

That beautiful young girl, a smile on her face, the wind in her hair, the sun kissing her rosy cheeks – look at her! Expectant. Joyful. And why not? Hadn’t life always been good? Long summer days spent reading, drinking Mother’s sweet tea, eating fried chicken and potato salad. Days when Jack would surprise her with a good dousing from the garden hose as she jumped off her bike, happy, tired, sweaty.

Maggie closed her eyes, hearing once again the sound of shrieks of pleasure as she tried to escape the pelting spray of the hose.

Her thin, pale fingers lightly caressed the smooth surface of the photograph, hoping by touch to escape into that world once more. She wanted again to experience a summer’s day, wanted to feel her legs pedaling in the wind, feel the propulsion of her movement. Oh yes… oh yes…

She could feel it, she could! She could hear her giggles of childish delight! She could hear the birds that had been in the trees, filling the blue sky with birdsong –

And then she heard something else, the squeal of tires as the milk truck screeched to a halt, the too-late warning – look out! – the sickening crunch of metal hitting spokes…

Opening her eyes, Maggie glanced again at the photo, and then gently rested it on withered thighs too long imprisoned by a wheel chair.

“Mags, you okay?” asked Jack, watching her.

She nodded.

What else was there to do?


Author’s Note: This story was written in response to a challenge issued by Naomi Harvey to write a story or article based on the photograph at the top of this page. Naomi’s challenge was issued on Chris Musgrave’s blog as well as Naomi’s.

Thanks for the inspiration, Naomi.  🙂

About Kate Loveton

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time... ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?
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27 Responses to The Summer of Nancy Drew

  1. sandradan1 says:

    You handled the surprise really well, hinting but not too much. A story of its time. I didn’t read Nancy Drew, I grew up with the adventures of the Famous Five and Swallows and Amazons! SD

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks for the vote of confidence in the handling of the story, Sandra; I appreciate the encouragement as well as your taking the time to read. Growing up, I read Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys – and just about any book I could get my hands on that dealt with stories about the Greek, Roman and Norse gods and goddesses. I was very much into mythology as a youngster.

  2. Kate Loveton says:

    A warm thank you to all the readers who ‘liked’ this story; I appreciate the support. 🙂

  3. Kate Loveton says:

    Wonderful point, Kathy, about the loss of innocence… I liked that very much.

    Thanks for reading the story, and for leaving me a comment. I’m happy you enjoyed it! 🙂

  4. W. K. Tucker says:

    From the start, I knew this story wouldn’t end with a “happily ever after”. I felt so much sadness in the opening sentences–I have a morbid personality, after all. 🙂
    Most of us miss our childhoods, this poor soul more than most, and with good reason. I really felt for her. In a way, it was like a loss of innocence, because once that is lost, it can never again be reclaimed–like the use of her legs. Wonderfully told story, Kate.

  5. Damyanti says:

    I had a Nancy Drew summer, too– so I quite identified with this story. Love the way it opens and builds up.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thank you. 🙂 By the way, I’m quite excited about reading your A-Z Stories (available on Amazon). I purchased a copy of the completed collection, and think I’ll reward myself after a hard day’s work by reading a story a day!

  6. Great story, Kate!

    Here I was thinking this was a sweet story about a couple of old folk remembering their childhood years and then….BANG! You stuck a masterful twist in there at the end that really caught me by surprise.

    Brilliant stuff, Kate 🙂

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Heather, it was a bittersweet tale, for sure. Some sweet memories – but tinged with sorrow and resignation. A lot of things changed that summer for Maggie – she left childhood behind forever – and mobility. Thanks for your lovely words, friend! ❤

  7. Kate Loveton says:

    Hello! Your comment made me grin! I do tend to like the little twist at the end of a story. So… I’m trying to think if I’ve written any lately without the twist. I think if you take a look at ‘June Bugs,’ you’ll find that one deals with childhood memories without a similar style ending. Although it’s not exactly a Walton’s-type ending to the tale… (it’s my nature to be perverse, I guess!)

    Glad you liked the story; I always enjoy reading your comments! 🙂

  8. gpeynon says:

    Ooooo, you just couldn’t resist that crunching twist at the end could you? I was quite happy revelling in childhood memories until that moment. Thanks a lot 😉

    Great little story, though.

  9. Eleanor Wood says:

    Loved this. 🙂 A really evocative, well-crafted flash piece. Great twist at the end! (And I loved Nancy Drew too…)

  10. I really, really liked the story. I liked the gentle hints – the references to tipping over, and the thin, pale fingers. I liked that the ending didn’t come as a total surprise, and yet it did – I was imagining a sickness or injury at a time more removed from the photograph.
    As I was reading the story, my mind was having its customary internal feud. My inner optimist was saying “one day, I’ll be that good”, whilst my inner pessimist, or realist, as it likes to think of itself, replied “yeah – in your dreams”.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Keith,

      You send me off to my day job with a huge smile on my face due to your very generous words. Thank you! (Although, having read your blog, I can say you are selling yourself short, my friend!)

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I did place hints throughout that the ending would be rather sad because I didn’t want it to be a total surprise that something changed that young girl’s life – and the day she rode her bike was the pivot point.

      No matter what happens today, I shall be in a very good mood at work because your kind words will stay with me. 🙂

  11. Kate Loveton says:

    Thanks, Kathy – I’m so glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  12. parishkathy says:

    You took my breath away with this one, Kate. Well done!

  13. woow… it’s amazing

  14. I also had a summer of Nancy Drew, when I read the entire series while lying in bed with polio. So this story resonated! Well done.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Noelle, I can certainly see why this story would resonate with you. That is some memory from your past! The horrors of polio affected a lot of families in the fifties (and before), and frightened many more. Glad you came through it, my friend.

      I used to read Nancy’s adventures all the time when I was younger, and ‘The Hidden Staircase’ was my favorite.

  15. Beautiful. Oh to see our younger former selves again. So free and easy. The imagery was brilliant. I could picture her young self laughing and dodging the blasting hose. You brought up feelings that we all long for, the innocence of ourselves.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Lindsay, thank you for the lovely comments. The blasting hose was a feature of my childhood! My cousin was quite good at catching me unaware and pelting me with the icy water on extremely hot days. It would be fun to again experience a summer’s day as a kid – magical, in fact! 🙂

      • I agree, it would be magical. I had a big brother and an older cousin for the water pelting…Always fun…and cold.

        Of course, I love to relive these moments through my daughters. It’s so fun seeing things through their eyes.

  16. L. Palmer says:

    Good story, with a well built twist in the end. I really liked your opening sentence, “It was the summer of Nancy Drew.” It says a lot about the character’s coming of age, while also drawing the reader into the story.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hello! ‘Nancy Drew’ sort of sneaked up on me; I had no idea I was going to use those old books in the story. I remember reading them as a kid – and I remember my aunt has a vintage set of them (which I wished she’d give to me!). Sometimes things just occur to you out of nowhere, but then they suddenly seem right, setting a piece in time, perhaps even in mood. Glad you enjoyed the story. 🙂

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