My Dear Brave Girls,
These books are really about you, and I hope you know that. You are the keepers of the peace, the home fires, the history, taken down in tidy scrawl in your minds. Yours is an adaptive, flexible, unbreakable strength. An unspoken peace. A Southern woman need not say she is strong; it's shining there in all the perfect, subtle lines of your perseverance, for those with eyes to see.
Jenny, thank you for struggling with your trauma. For being honest with the fact that you're not okay. You need not apologize to anyone.
Sam, thank you for loving Aidan, even if I can't. For seeing the good in him, the sweet motherless boy who needs you.
Emmie, thank you for loving something enough to fear losing it. Thank you for working hard, though the reward may be little.
Holly, thank you for holding onto your innocence. For touching the innocence in Michael.
Maggie, thank you for being everyone's mama, always. You are the queen, and you love your king, though his softness is hard to see.
And Ava. My girl Ava. You know you're my favorite. You know how I love to live inside your head, because it frightens and inspires me, the way you see things in absolutes, even when you tried to pretend you didn't, that you belonged in the real world. Thank you for reminding me that this story was worth holding onto, a year ago, when you came to visit me when I was sad, dragging Ronnie along with you, in that first scene, on the streets of Knoxville. Thank you, friend. I had missed you, and I didn't even know it.
I can't write a story if there are pieces missing. The only way I'm able to work through the exploits of these degenerate man-children of mine are because my girls love them, and convince me daily that they are in fact worth loving. It's as much an adventure for me as it is for my readers, getting to the end. And I do fall in love with the boys, as I come to know them. But I think Leading Ladies get short shrift these days, and I wanted to take a moment to thank mine. My Dear Brave Girls. Thank you for giving an awkward hermit a voice.