My 52 Week Writing Challenge will include character sketches and plot outlines from possible future WIPs. Isabella is from ‘Brody Daniels’ Girls’. (Week 7)
God hated her. He had to.
Isabella Marchand could think of no other reason so many bad things happened to her.
To be fair, not everything that happened to Isabella was bad. It just wasn’t what she wanted.
She wasn’t the oldest of Julietta and Neville Marchand’s four daughters. That distinction belonged to Arabella. She wasn’t the prettiest — Celeste, younger by thirteen months had that honor. Isabella also wasn’t the smartest. Baby girl, Zara, was the brains of the family.
Isabella often felt lost in the hustle and bustle of her family. Her parents owned three successful dry cleaners in and around the French Quarter. Four years her senior, Arabella received countless invitations to parties and chaperoned dates. When she wasn’t in school, the beautiful Celeste was busy appearing at events and riding on floats for community groups and social clubs. At only ten years of age, the scholarly Zara either had her face in a book or had their parents running to some school event.
Longing for something to call her own, Isabella tried sewing, dancing, and cooking. While she was good at all these things, Isabella felt like a failure because she wasn’t a standout. The spotlight never gravitated to her.
Until just before Isabella’s fourteenth birthday.
During one of their monthly family get-togethers, Isabella’s cousin, Inez, asked Isabella to sing a couple of popular songs with a random group of cousins. Someone was always singing at the large gatherings, but usually in French to highlight their rich French Creole heritage. Isabella and most family members of her generation didn’t speak French. Isabella was excited by the fifteen-year-old seeking her out and followed Inez to the back yard for a quick practice.
Sam Cooke’s You Send Me and Johnny Mathis’ Chances Are were the songs chosen. Of the seven girls, only one, Nova, was younger than Isabella. The older cousins quickly gave them minor backup parts and pushed them to the periphery of the group. Inez and Belva, the oldest in the group at nineteen, began the first verse of You Send Me in harmony.
Isabella frowned. Inez was pitched too high and Belva was just flat. She let them sing for another few seconds hoping their voices would meld into the correct tone and harmony. They didn’t.
“That’s not right.”
All eyes turned to Isabella. Belva’s flashed with anger.
“You’re just part of the backup. What do you know?”
“I’m part of the backup because that’s where you put me, but anyone who’s heard this song once knows that’s not right.”
Inez was genuinely hurt. “We needed more voices for backup, Isabella, but we’ve sung this song before and the family enjoyed it.”
“I’m not trying to be mean, Inez, but you’re both off-key.”
“As if a kid like you can do better.” Belva thrust both hands onto her hips as the crimson flush of her cheeks deepened.
Exasperated, Isabella tried to reign in her own anger.
“Maybe not better, Belva, but I do know the tune.”
“That’s no way to talk to family. You’re out of the group. Go away! Just can’t be nice to some people.”
Ready to point out Belva’s rudeness to her, Isabella held her tongue and turned to leave.
Isabella froze, cursing herself for ever saying anything. She turned back to face her cousins to find it wasn’t Belva or Inez who had spoken, but sixteen-year-old Marian Levec.
“Let’s hear her sing it.”
Slowly dropping her arms to her sides, Belva was confused.
“Because she’s already here and”, she motioned between Belva and Inez, “you two were off-key.” Her identical twin, Mildred, nodded in agreement.
Belva glanced at Nova and fifteen-year-old Lisette Masse´. Both joined the majority.
“Fine! Let’s get this over with! Go ahead, Isabella…sing!”
Isabella never thought she’d have to prove herself. Hanging her head for a few seconds, she closed her eyes. Leaving them closed, Isabella leaned her head back and began to sing.
“At first I thought it was infatuation,
But, woo, it’s lasted so long,
Now I find myself wanting
To marry you and take you home, whoa”
Whether she realized it or not, Isabella’s sweet contralto voice mimicked the high tenor notes of Sam Cooke perfectly. She stopped singing, afraid to open eyes and see the angry looks of her cousins. Growing more anxious at the prolonged silence, Isabella opened her eyes.
The girls were all staring at her…awestruck. Marian and Mildred nodded with twin smiles.
Belva slowly approached Isabella, her expression blank. Isabella cringed inwardly.
“You know the words to Chances Are?”
“Let’s try that one next.” Backing away slowly, Belva held her cousin’s gaze. When she spoke again, the admiration in her voice was unmistakable. “I wish I had your voice, Isabella…it’s beautiful and should be heard. It should always be heard.”
With frazzled nerves and butterflies in her stomach, Isabella rehearsed with her cousins…then sang for their extended family. The applause was thunderous when the girls finished, with family members amazed at Isabella’s beautiful voice. But none were as amazed…or proud as Julietta and Neville Marchand.
Neville held his daughter in a tight embrace while Julietta leaned in and kissed Isabella’s temple. “Comment savons-nous pas, mon cœur? Comment savons-nous pas?” How did we not know, my heart? How did we not know?
The only word Isabella understood in her mother’s comment was ‘heart’, so she just held on to her father tighter while fighting back tears.
Isabella Sophia Marchand had found what made her special.
Isabella’s life would change. She never missed an opportunity to share her golden voice.
But it would come with a price the Marchand family would never recover from.
Still, music would lift Isabella from the depths of her despair.
Music would lead her to Brody Daniels.
After more than twelve years of marriage and four children, music would be the reason Isabella walked away from her family.
Isabella would return four decades later.
And her reasons had nothing to do with music.
You Send Me Written by Sam Cooke • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Abkco Music, Inc