I have two of my closest friends with me today: Claire and Frank Harper.
A quick word of introduction: Claire and Frank are twins and, more than siblings, they’re very close friends. Their stories are told in the novels, Where Can I Flee and In the Shadow of Thy Wings, which we’ll talk more about in a bit. When we first met them, it was the year 1861 just months before Tennessee seceded from the Union. The war is still raging on in their world, but they’ve taken a break to talk to us. You can find a more detailed look at these two amazing characters here, but for now, let’s see what more they have to share with us …
Me: I’m so happy you could join us today.
Claire is smiling ear from ear like she could just burst with excitement.
Claire: It’s such an honor. It really is. I’m so glad we were invited, truly, I am. I just …
Frank pats her on the knee.
Frank: Dearest, we haven’t very long to be here. Maybe we should get on with the questions.
Clarie: Yes, yes. Of course, you’re right.
With a big sigh and a large smile, Claire sits up straighter.
Claire: I’m ready when you are.
Me: Well, as you know, I’ve asked some of your biggest fans to send in some questions, and the first one on my list is: What is your favorite childhood memory?
Both sit rather thoughtful for a moment before Claire jumps in her seat and claps her hands. She sends a big grin to Frank before turning back to me.
Claire: One day, when we were about … six or seven, Father sent us out to gather up the eggs.
Frank grunts and shifts in his seat. I have a feeling this may not be his favorite memory.
Claire: We had this one rooster who was a bit more ornery than the others. We were well within the habit of luring him away from the pen with the feed while the other took the eggs. Frank, she gives me another big grin, normally took that role while I gathered up the eggs. Frank had not yet taken him far enough away from the pen before I slipped in, and the beast of a rooster came after me. Well, my hero thought fast and threw a well-aimed rock at his backside and it worked. Only, he came after Frank next. He started to offer the feed, but when the devilish bird came at him, Frank tossed the feed in the air, letting it rain down everywhere, which sent the rest of chickens into a tizzy while he ran for the nearest protection that he could find. A tree. Truly, in all my life, I never did see him climb a tree quite so fast. Father soon heard the commotion and came out to find Frank in the tree and the rooster guarding him down below. Father tended to the rooster quickly, and we had a nice meal out of him, but poor Frank was some time coming down from that tree. In his haste, he climbed rather well but getting down became the new problem.
Lol Claire can hardly talk anymore for laughing so hard, but Frank is cutting his eyes at her.
Frank: She asked what your favorite memory was; not mine.
Claire: That is my memory. I was there.
Frank: But you weren’t the one stuck in the tree.
Claire: Of course not! I wasn’t fool enough to get up in that tree!
Frank’s clamped his mouth shut and rolled his eyes.
Frank: Next question, please.
Me: Well, the readers would like to hear a story from you, Frank.
Frank: Very well.
He had looked a far off for a moment but now a slow smile pulls across his face.
Frank: My favorite memory is that Christmas when we were seven, and we helped Mother make those cinnamon ornaments, and Father cut down that giant tree that hardly fit in the room.
Claire smiles brightly.
Claire: And we had deer that year. And oranges!
Frank: Yes, the oranges.
Me: This next question is for you, Frank. Do you have any regrets about leaving home to join the army?
He gives a stern shake of his head.
Frank: None. Don’t get me wrong, things are tough, but I know I’m doing what I ought to do, and I’d do it all again.
Me: And Claire, how do you feel about everything the war has cost you so far?
She’s sitting pretty quietly now. Wow, I’ve yet to see her so quiet, even Frank is watching her intently. She swallows at a lump in her throat and looks at me with glistening eyes.
Claire: I hate it, she whispers.
I don’t know if I should ask her to go into more detail. She seems pretty upset. Maybe we should just move on.
Claire turns to Frank and puts a hand on his arm.
Claire: I’m sorry, Frank. I do try so hard to be supportive. But it’s hard to sit and wait. It’s hard to know you’re constantly in such danger. It’s hard to say goodbye to friends. It’s … it’s just plain hard. I wish it didn’t have to be.
Frank: I understand, he mumbled, patting her hand affectionately.
Me: Frank, the readers want to know what you miss most about home?
Frank: The FOOD!
Me: And Claire, what do you miss most about Frank?
Claire: The company. Father never was a talker.
Frank: Maybe it’s because you’ve never given him the chance.
He’s smiling at her with a lopsided grin. I think he’s baiting her, but she’s laughing heartily at herself.
Me: Here’s a question for you both. If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?
Claire: I would have turned to Christ sooner. She turns to Frank now, And what of you? Would you regret not asking for Sally’s hand before you left home?
Uh-oh, I believe she’s baiting him now. Lol He’s smirking at her, but so far he’s remained tight-lipped.
Frank: I aim to live my life the way I mean to so I’d have no regrets, and, up to now, I don’t believe that I do.
Me: I have only one last question for you. Is there anything you wish that your family knew about you, but you’ve hesitated to tell them?
Both are shifting rather uncomfortably in their seats.
Claire: N…noooo. I’m an open sort of person. If I had kept anything to myself then I had a reason for it and should like to keep it that way.
Frank is eyeing her closely now. He’s shifted his body to look at her straight on.
Frank: So, my dear sister is holding secrets from us. Do tell?
Claire: No, no. There are no … secrets. I only mean that if I were to have them, then, well, I have them for a reason and shan’t share them so openly.
She’s nervously laughing now. I think we’re on to something. Of course, I know her secrets, but I’m obligated to keep my mouth shut. If she chooses not to tell, I’m afraid I won’t be able to either.
Frank is smiling much wider now. He knows he’s found something worth digging into. But … I’m not so sure he’d like it if he were to find out. In fact, I KNOW he wouldn’t. I’d better rescue her now.
Me: Frank, you’ve yet to answer the question. Readers are dying to know if you have something to share with your family.
Frank turns his attention back to me and is running his fingers through his hair. Yes, I believe we’ve struck a nerve here with him as well.
Frank: I want only to make sure they know … he shifts a little more in his seat and glances over at Claire and then back down to the floor. I mean for them to know how much I care for them. I-I hope to come home soon. I pray that I won’t cause great heartache. I hope they’ll not blame me for doing what I felt that I must. I-I …
Claire: We know, Frank. She’s reaching out to him again, but he hasn’t brought himself to look at her. Father and I are both very proud of you. We miss you is all. He looks back at her and gives a stiff nod of his head. They both look ready to cry. I’d hate to end on a sad note, so why not give them one more question?
Me: I’d like to know what you most look forward to in the next year?
There, that has done it. Both are smiling again and thinking of future plans.
Claire and Frank: The end of the war, they announce together.
Frank: Yes, I most want to see the Confederacy to victory. There’s still hope for us yet.
Claire: Of course, I want to see our men come home. I miss them both so much.
Frank’s eyes have gone wide, and he’s slowly turning to her.
Frank: Both? Whatever you do you mean?
Claire is smiling nervously at him. I don’t think she meant to mention … you know who.
Claire: Why you and George, of course. Yes, that is what I meant.
He doesn’t look convinced, but I’m not about to say anything.
Me: Well, it was a pleasure to have you. I wish you both well. Claire, I can’t wait to visit with you again. Maybe, I can bring the sugar … and tea … and flour, and we can bake some cookies or something. And Frank, I do wish you’d be careful out there. We’re all rooting for you back home. God bless!
Claire and Frank Harper are just two of the lovable characters from the Ancient Words Series. Their story is told in the books: Where Can I Flee, In the Shadow of Thy Wings, and Out of the Ashes.