Hi, everyone! My name is Olivia Harper.
Although I grew up in New Orleans and now live in southern Texas, I actually don’t have much of a Southern accent – and rarely do I utter the word “y’all,” unless I’m joking. In fact, I’m a fairly simple gal. I live with my husband, Michael; our children, Daryl and Samantha; and our beagle, Buddy, in a three-story, beachfront home on South Padre Island. Michael operates a pediatric practice on the mainland, while I run an art gallery and bead shop on the island.
My love for art began long ago, during my youth in New Orleans, a vibrant city that begs to be painted. There, I lived with my father, Patrick Marconi, a successful restaurateur; my mother, Devi, an unhappy housewife; my annoying twin older sisters, Rebecca and Sadie; and my beloved dog, Charlie. By the time I was an adolescent, I knew that I wanted to be an artist. So, with my parents’ encouragement, I enrolled in the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts.
Following high school, I studied art and art history at the University of Texas at Austin. After earning a graduate degree and realizing that I was sick of school, I moved to San Antonio, where I met and eventually married Michael, the love of my life. Although it’s been a decade and we’re still happily married, there’s something I’ve never told him... even when he was in the midst of working on a book about childhood and imagination.
When I was a little girl, my mother told me about a secret, underground community in southern Kentucky, a made-up place called Ruby Hollow. Rife with wondrous chambers and eccentric characters, the Hollow filled my imagination as a child. Years later, as a sophomore in high school, I had forgotten about the Hollow and grown weary of my mother’s moods... until the day I discovered a cache of love letters in her closet – love letters from Jesse, the “hero” of her bedtime stories about Ruby Hollow. It was then that I realized the Hollow was real.
Eventually, I summoned the courage to confess my find. Surprisingly, Mom wasn’t upset. In fact, she seemed relieved. When her estranged mother passed away soon afterward, she asked me to accompany her to Kentucky for the funeral. While there, she decided to take me to Ruby Hollow – to meet Jesse and the rest of the Hollowites for myself. It was a trip that would change everything – including our relationship and my mother’s future.
Only my father knows why she never returned to New Orleans. Michael merely believes that she disappeared when I was fifteen. How can I tell him the truth – when doing so could risk the sanctity of an entire village?
Have you ever kept such a secret from the person you love most? Are you ready to share it now?