It took me a while, but I finally found her: the mysterious woman in
the Applebee's photo.
Ironically, I found her when I wasn't even looking for her. The
night she reactualized, I was focused on Mims, the sad mysterious young
woman whose husband had her beheaded. But once I was hypnotized,
the information that floated to the surface of my consciousness didn't
take me back to sixth century Tudor England, as expected.
It took me instead to 19th century Alameda, California.
Her name was Norma Davries. She was born in November 1906 in
Westfield, Illinois, and moved to Alameda, California with her mother
and her younger brother Robert James (known as "R.J.") when she was
five years old.
Her father, Jerome Davries, died of typhoid when Norma was a baby. Her
mother remarried soon after moving to Alameda, to C. Phillip Spenser,
inventor of the flavored toothpick. In 1912 she gave birth to Norma's
prodigiously gifted child, Norma read the entire Bible, front to back,
when she was just four years old; by the time she started public school
she was able to converse fluently in four languages. Her best
friend was her half-sister Lillian. Norma and Lillian both loved to
and sing, and spent much of their free time co-authoring plays and
musicals, which they would perform for their neighbors on a
makeshift stage in their backyard. As teenagers, Norma and Lillian
enjoyed spending Saturday afternoons at Neptune Beach.
After graduation from high school, Lillian moved to Seattle to attend
art school, while Norma stayed in Alameda and enrolled at a local
business college. They continued to exchange cards and letters,
but eventually they lost touch. Lillian married a man she
met in art school. Norma was briefly engaged to the son of her
family's dentist, but broke it off when it was discovered that he had
been married previously and had never bothered to obtain a legal
She dated quite a great deal -- some may say
indiscriminately -- but never seemed to find the one true
love of her heart. Instead, she focused on her college
studies, and then, following graduation, on her career as a legal
secretary for an Oakland law firm. She worked for the firm for
seven years, until a forward-thinking partner in the firm convinced her
that she should go to law school and become an attorney herself.
She graduated with honors and became the first woman in Alameda
to open her own law practice.
The year she turned forty, Norma began corresponding with a widowed
bookseller in San Francisco, Francis ("Frank") Dillard. She wrote to
him originally seeking a
signed copy of Prascall's "Enmity and Charity" for her father's
birthday, but she and Frank found that they had a great deal in common
and soon their correspondence became more personal.
Although they lived within ten miles of each other, they confined their
friendship to written correspondence for the first two years of their
relationship. When Norma and Frank finally met face-to-face for the
time, over dinner at an Italian restaurant in the North Beach
neighborhood of San Francisco, it was love at first sight. They
wed six months later -- Lillian stood at Norma's side as
Matron of Honor -- and were blissfully married for nearly
thirty-five years, until her death from tuberculosis in 1957.
Both Frank and Lillian were at her side when she died.
Norma's last conscious thought, as she slipped from actualization to
eternity, was a prayer of gratitude for the two people she loved most
on earth: her devoted husband, and Lillian, her dearest sister and