Skip to main content

The Ugly Star

I cut my teeth writing on Hubpages back in 2009. I've written 17 novels, numerous songs, and short stories since. I love to write love.

Beautiful nights.

the-ugly-star

The morning.

21-year-old Grover Hillings and 19-year-old Velma Jean Collier were married on June 7, 1905, in Velma's hometown of Darlington Wisconsin. It was just 10 days after their honeymoon in Grover's Uncle Jasper's cabin, near Kenosha on Lake Michigan. They were living in a small two-room apartment above Nelson's Grocery Store. Grover was sipping hot tea and reading the paper. As Velma made breakfast, he read aloud, " Christy Mathewson throws his 2nd no-hitter, beating Chicago Cubs, 1-0 at West Side Grounds, Chicago." Grover took a sip of tea and grumbled, "Those darn Giants!" Velma scraped scrambled eggs from the iron pan onto his plate, giggled, and said, "I never heard you talk much about baseball before."

Grover snapped his paper and said, "Ahhh...just learning because the men I work with at the courthouse all talk about baseball and I want to be able to join in the conversations." He added, "They all hate the New York Giants." Velma scraped eggs on her plate and asked why? Grover grinned and answered, "Well my beautiful wife, I do wish I knew the answer." Grover and Velma finished their breakfast and Grover left for work. Velma watched him cross the street and walk toward the construction site from the window. She thought of the night before, smiled, and sighed. They had taken a buggy ride in the country and counted the stars with kisses. When they returned home, love was a wonderful storm as the candle burned down to the brass. She wished him a kiss and sat at the little round kitchen table to write a letter to her friend Katherine in Rushville Indiana.

The teapot whistled. Velma rushed to the stove and slipped on the floor. She reached out, grabbed the teapot, and slung it off but she couldn't prevent the left side of her face from hitting the hot stovetop. She screamed in pain as she pulled away and felt her skin burning. Velma couldn't touch her face but she managed to soak a cloth with water and gently place it on her burns. Grocery store worker, Nannie Brighton knocked on Velma's door and Velma let her in. Nannie asked, "Lord child, I heard you screaming. What happened?" Velma cried, "I am burned, I am burned bad. It hurts Nannie."

Nannie had Velma pull the cloth away and saw that nearly the whole left side of Velma's face was reddish and deformed skin. Nannie called downstairs for someone to get Doctor Johnston. Within the half-hour, Doctor Samuel Johnston who had been setting a broken arm at the Courthouse construction site arrived. He sent Nannie to the store to get eggs and honey. He gently applied the mixture of egg whites and honey to Velma's burns. Grover heard what happened and came through the doorway crying, "Oh sweet Velma, my sweet Velma, God no!" He saw the swollen disfigured side of her face.

Beautiful

the-ugly-star

The decision.

Velma sat silently with tears rolling down her cheeks. The doctor gave her morphine for pain and instructions for treating her burns. He said he would send a boy back from his office with some aloe salve. Gordon knelt beside her and placed his hand over her hands as the doctor and others left. As soon as Nannie closed the door behind her, Gordon asked, "What happened?" Velma cried softly and answered, " I slipped and fell against the hot plate on the stove. I was boiling water for a new pot of tea." Grover did everything he could to make her comfortable. He rounded up some pillows from friends for Velma to rest back on in their bed. She kept looking in her hand mirror and Grover begged her to try to get some rest.

Grover fell asleep that night but Velma nodded off for a few moments at a time. In the morning, he found her sitting at the kitchen table. The mirror was lying next to her bible. Grover knelt by her side, put his hands on hers, and asked her how she was feeling. Velma looked down at her lap and saw Grover's hands on top of hers. She lifted and pushed his hands away. She said, "I am going to start packing my belongings. I want you to take me to the train station tomorrow to see the schedule and buy a ticket. I am going to go live with my friend Katherine in Indiana. It is where I would have gone if I hadn't met you." Grover looked down at his hands she pushed away, clenched his fists, and grumbled, "You think I am such a shallow man that I would toss my love aside because you were injured? Velma...I beg you to feel and reason with your heart. I love you."

Velma wiped her tears and said, "As I love you also. I can not and will not be the ugly half of this marriage. I will not let your heart be broken time and time again for my sake. I have made up my mind and shall not change. I wish to leave by the end of the month or as soon as I'm healed enough to travel." Grover tried to convince Velma to stay with him but her stubbornness won out. Velma began wearing a brown hat with a black veil...hiding her face. She had purchased a train ticket a week before she was to go to Indiana.

Holding on.

the-ugly-star

More love.

Grover convinced her to take one last buggy ride with him. It was nearly midnight when he pulled the buggy over by the Pecatonica River. The moon's reflection rippled in the waters and it was a warm clear, July night. Velma sighed and said, "Please take me home now Grover. I have to arrive at the train station early in the morning. I need to get some rest." Grover said, "Please, just give me a few more minutes." Velma reluctantly agreed.

Grover pointed to the north part of the sky and said, "See that ugly star, Velma? He leaned toward her and repeated, "Look, Velma. Look at that ugly star." Velma snapped, "You are being foolish and childish Grover Hillings." Grover snapped back, "Well I am not leaving until you look at that ugly star." Velma grumbled, "Very well. If you insist." She raised her veil with her hands, looked for a moment, and said, "I do not see an ugly star. I see only the bright and dim stars of the night. Grover leaned and kissed her. She pulled down her veil and angrily scolded him, "Please don't...don't ...don't." Grover softly said, "Look at me. You can see my face in the moonlight. Look at me." Velma lifted her veil and could see tears in his eyes as he said, "Once we counted stars and kissed to each we counted. Now...you only let me see the smooth side of your face. You look away from me. There is no ugly star my dear, only different stars. There is no ugly you, my dear. You are simply a different beautiful now. Still as beautiful as all the stars to me."

Velma's eyes filled with tears as she said, "But I don't want you to hurt. I don't want the world to make you feel shame because of me." Grover smiled and said, "We'll just point them to our sky, my dear." After a hundred kisses and even talks of having children, it was 4:00 in the morning when Grover and Velma got home. Her train ticket was never used. After Grover finished his work as a stonemason on building the Courthouse, he and Velma moved to Rushville Indiana. They often sat together by a campfire on their little farm and gazed at the sky. Velma and Grover would always talk about the night by the Pecatonica River, looking for an ugly star.

Around the fire.

the-ugly-star

© 2022 Tom Cornett

Related Articles