Falling Hard by Keira Michelle Telford is the fictionalised story based on a real life photograph of a woman who committed suicide. Telford did research on the woman and then constructed the story of Evelyn Francis McHale.
Evelyn served her country during the war. When she came home she seemed to have everything that a young woman could want, an adoring fiancé, a loving family and the knowledge that she served her country. But one day she went up to the top of the Empire State Building and jumped to her death.
In this novella Telford describes Evelyn’s double life and why she thought that death was the only way forward. It is a poignant story that harkens back to a time when being lesbian was for the bravest of women.
This is a magnificently written piece. There is a romance that is so passionate it sparks off the page. There is a depth of despair that pulls your heart out and there is a historic backdrop that only comes when an author is well versed in the era.
Know that it will be sad and read it anyway. It is magnificent. Telford is a master and this is the kind of read that will stay with you for days.
Excerpt from Falling Hard by Keira Michelle Telford
The following morning, when Evelyn crossed paths with Pennetta in the latrine before anyone else was awake, the unabashed thirty-year-old was still in a state of undress. In proper lighting, Evelyn admired how a white t-shirt clung to her athletic body. Her modest bosom. Her slender waist. Her hips. She was muscular, but not manly. Strong. Confident. Evelyn imagined her to be the kind of woman who’d wear men’s trousers in public, no matter what anyone else thought. A non-conformist, one might say. A true maverick. The kind of woman who leapt at the chance to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps, if only to prove she was every bit as capable as a man.
In silent worship, Evelyn forgot to move.
“Enjoying the view?” Pennetta grinned. “What’s your name, soldier?”
“McHale,” Evelyn answered reflexively, averting her gaze. “Evelyn, if you like.”
“I like very much.” Pennetta looked her up and down, returning the ocular appreciation. “You’ve got some real SA going on, Evvie.”
Evelyn peeked at her reflection in the mirror. Sex appeal? Really? She looked a wreck. Her baggy pajamas hid every womanly curve, her limp strawberry blonde hair needed a wash, and her fuzzy slippers made her feet look enormous. Ergo, she assumed Pennetta’s commentary was intended to be sarcastic.
“My name’s Grace, by the way, but there ain’t nothing too graceful about me,” Pennetta went on, gathering up her toiletry supplies. “People call me Penny.”
As other WACs started stumbling into the latrine, Penny flashed one more smile and left. When Evelyn got back to the barracks, she found a shiny penny placed neatly on her pillow.
“So you don’t forget.” Penny winked.
That’s all it was at first: smiles, winks, and plenty of them. Every morning, when it was too early to think, the first thing they did was smile at each other across the divide between their beds. Sitting opposite each other in the mess hall, they smiled. Huddled on the stairs after lights out, sewing, reading, writing letters home, or rolling up their hair, every silence was punctuated with a smile or a flirtatious glance, and several weeks passed that way. Most days they were kept so busy there was little time for anything else. Then things escalated.
One morning, while dressing for reveille, Evelyn caught Penny staring at her legs. “Just checking your stocking seams.” Penny smirked, unashamed.
“Don’t wanna get yourself in trouble.” With that, she patted Evelyn’s rump and walked away.
Not long after, they got to wear their summer uniforms for the first time. That day, Evelyn stood in front of the mirror analyzing her appearance, discontented with almost everything. The herringbone twill did nothing flattering for her ashen complexion so she pinched her cheeks, bringing a little color to them. It was a small improvement.
She didn’t think of herself as being particularly beautiful. Not exactly plain, but nothing too special. Average height, average weight, peachy skin, and doe eyes.
“That won’t do.” Penny appeared behind her, slipped both hands around her waist and trailed them upwards, gliding over her ribcage to her ample bust. There, she took hold of Evelyn’s crooked tie and straightened it. “Much better.” She withdrew her hands to Evelyn’s hips and kept them there. “Now you’re perfect.”
Evelyn didn’t need to pinch her cheeks then; they flushed with color. Unnerved by the contact— and equally by her reaction to it— she thanked Penny, excused herself, and slunk away.
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- Publisher: Venatic Press
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