On Writing

Chatterbox – Cupcakes and Murder

“We can’t kill him.” The pronouncement hung in the clearing like a gloomy smog. “I mean, we may want to. But we can’t.”

Amelia raised her head. “Torture?” she suggested hopefully.

She was subjected to a hard stare from her brother, a towering and noble figure of reluctant righteousness.

“Outlawed,” said he.

“Accidental homicide?” she offered.

“With you, it wouldn’t be accidental.”

Amelia tilted her head and felt her hair – so carefully arranged – snag on the bark. She ought to move position, but there was something poetic about sitting against the trunk of tree.

“Yeah,” she admitted, rubbing the hem of her pink dress. “That’s true.”

Another hard stare. A car whizzed by on the nearby road – you could just catch a flash of it through the trees.

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via Pinterest

“Alright,” she sighed. “But can’t we sell him?”

Her brother shifted on his booted feet, crunching leaf and twig. “You’ve got a dark character,” he commented.

“Oh?” began Amelia dangerously.

“Calculating mind,” continued the erstwhile male.

Oh?” demanded his sister.

“Bellicose brain,” offered he, arms crossed and head tilted to the side just so. Sunlight caught at his fair hair and gave him a righteous glow.

“I have no idea what that means,” said Amelia, her eyes indignant. Her thoughts changed paths and charged towards a more dangerous subject. “Ask anyone,” she said, “and they will tell you that no torture is too good for him – no punishment too great. He … he …”

A hand was flung around in a sweeping motion that gestured to the entire clearing.

“Hanging is too good for him,” she pronounced, scrambling to her daintily sandaled feet and glaring about her.

Her brother rolled his shoulders and nodded. His face was luminous with his reluctant agreement. He was a peace-loving soul, and yet-

“Even you are angry with his … his … “ she was lost for words and yet the expression on her face spoke more than an entire dictionary of words ever could. “Treachery!” she exploded.

A nod. A shrug. “We’ll manage,” were the paltry words offered to soothe her.

“Manage?” demanded Amelia. “Manage?!” she said throwing her hands outwards. “Look at me,” she said. “Do I look like I can manage?!”

Her brother eyed the puffy pink dress; the hair sprayed white; the make-up speckling her face in the form of rebellious blue and purple polka dots.

“I am a cupcake!” the words were hurled at him. “How can I manage to walk home like this?”

Her brother closed his mouth, wisely withholding wisdom which would no doubt be ill received. Another car flew by, a bird chirped merrily in a nearby tree.

“Oh no, you don’t say anything,” Amelia said with a heated glare. “It’s not as if you’re much better. You’re dressed as a candle! A CANDLE!”

Her brother looked down at his golden suit and plastic globules which stood for the running wax. He didn’t need to raise a hand to his face to feel the yellow and orange paint which caked his skin. The paint which resembled a flame. (Or rather, was supposed to resemble a flame).

Amelia’s shoulders slumped.

“We’re going to have to walk home,” she said. “On foot.”

“Like this,” agreed her brother as a fleck of paint drifted off his nose and fell to the floor.

“Rob,” said Amelia in a mournful voice, “let’s never trust a watermelon again.”

I blame Rachel Heffington for this. I really do. Travel-By-Foot was the theme of this month’s Chatterbox.

Characters, On Writing

Waiting for Trains

Now, I’m going to admit that this is a bit of a long post. But if you have a few minutes to spare than please do read on. The theme for this month’s Chatterbox is ‘Waiting Fulfilled’. And so below is a small story about a woman who is waiting for her husband and would rather not have ‘death by bench’ on her obituary.

And you may have noticed the new header of this blog. It is winter and I feel the need for warm wood and polar bears.

– – –

She had waited for oh so long. Both for the train and for him.

Though, to be perfectly truthful, she had waited only two hours for the train. For the man on the train, well, she had waited much longer for him.

Three years, five months, two weeks and six days. And, if she truly applied herself, she could work out the hours and minutes as well. But she was quite done with applying herself and besides, maths was never her forte.

Oh, she thought, very well then. I may as well be truthful with myself.

❄ Winter Wonderland ❄ PLEASE NOTE: this  image is a GIF - Animated Pin ❄ Please click on the play button to view ❄It had been three years, five months, two weeks, six days, ten hours and- she glanced at her watch and moved her hand to catch the light of an overhead lamp- thirty-six minutes.

A long time. Too long, almost. But she often thought that it was too long. She had thought it too long when his car had driven off in a cloud of black smoke that heralded a need for a mechanic. She had thought it too long when his first letter had come a week later. When that first lonely month had dragged so unwillingly by.

And then there was that awful first year.

And that perfectly dreadful second one.

She shivered and pulled her coat about her. It didn’t help much. She was going to sit on this cold bench and wait for the train even if it killed her.

She hoped it didn’t though, she had much too much to live for.

And besides ‘death by bench’ didn’t have a nice ring to it.

Suddenly she stilled. Because-? Could she-? Was that-?

It was.

His train – his long delayed train was coming with an impatient huff and a piercing whistle. She could hear its approach.

It was coming. He was coming.

She stood up and began to pace, up and down. Up and down. Puffs of her breath showed white in the air. Up and down.

Here it came.

Standing very still, she watched as, with a screech of the breaks, the iron monster came to a stop.Smoking train (by: Ralph Graef)

(It wasn’t a monster, she told herself. It was a dear, dear machine that was bringing him to her. And that also made her wait for two hours in the bitter cold. Yes, it was a monster. A dear monster, but a monster nevertheless.)

Smartly dressed passengers dismounted. Bags and briefcases bashed each other whilst their owners took sharp breaths at the sudden cold outside.

She stood and waited.

And suddenly, suddenly he was there.

Tall, dark hair messy (because three years, five months, two weeks, six days and bother the hours later and he still forgot to brush it) and with those kind brown eyes glinting in the lamplight, he stood there. In front of her.

“Hullo Vivian,” he said.

“Hello,” she said staring up at him. He really had a marvellous chin, she thought irrelevantly.

He joggled his briefcase and cleared his throat.

“You look …” he started, and she wondered how he was going to describe her. ‘Wrapped-up Cornish Pasty’ she had mentally described herself this morning. Though if he said, ‘Wondrously Beautiful Beloved of my Heart’ she wouldn’t complain.

“… like …” he was fumbling for words. It was rather strange really. He had never fumbled for words. Not even on their wedding day when she had come down with a nasty cold and sneezed during his wedding vows. He had squeezed her hand and smoothly carried on with ‘through sickness and in health.’

She couldn’t bear it anymore. Three years and all those months and weeks and days and a delayed train were much too long to wait, so she did the sensible thing and flung herself in his arms.

He caught her and she didn’t hear the ‘thump’ of the dropped briefcase.

He drew back after a few moments, holding her at arm’s length (though, she noted that he held her quite tightly even then) and staring down at her. “You look,” he said. And stopped. Cleared his throat.

She nodded encouragingly, much too full of everything to speak.

“You look like home.”

Oh,” she replied eloquently as their breath curled white and delicate together in the winter air. “How lovely.”

On Writing, The Many Trials of a Blacksmith

He is swearing an oath to be warm

April’s Chatterbox is here once more and the topic is Resurrection (in this case – a resurrection of hope and of fear. A big thank you for Rachel for hosting again). This month I have chosen to write of The Many Trials of a Blacksmith and the character of one Gufflocks Thomas, former advisor to a slain king.

 — — —

The chamber is cold.

The black iron spirals across the white stone walls and he remembers a time when they weren’t there and the stone was crisp and without shadows.

But he also remembers the blood.

One night – that was all it took.

One night and red spattered the walls, coating it with dripping specks which shone dark by candle light.

He remembers the gurgled cries and cut-off screams.

He remembers the monster who strode in, whose armour was dark and sword was already crimson. One short laugh at the room and at the lords and the councillors in their white nightshirts and thick robes now torn and bloodied by the seeking blades.

One short laugh and fear rose up and consumed him. Choking him like a clinging vine.

Fifteen years and the fear has died – beaten down with sparse food and prison bars and an apathy that clings like the damp does the dungeon walls.

But here he is now – standing where it all began and all ended and he attempts to force down the memories which rise up before him and paint the walls red once more.

He turns his mind away from these thoughts and dwells upon a faded image – fifteen years have worn away the edges and dulled the face so that only the clear, ringing laugh is remembered with clarity.

But then he remembers the loss and turns from thoughts of her as well.

“Did you know – I distinctively remember meeting you for the first time in this room.”

He starts and turns and there, standing by the open door is him. He isn’t wearing armour, isn’t holding a sword. In fact, he is attired in a deep purple tunic, light yellow hose and brown boots with a thin circlet of silver atop of his dark head.

Nothing could be further from the monster of that night, long ago.

Except for one thing.

His eyes.

And fear is resurrected. Or perhaps it was there all along – slumbering in a deep sleep like a dragon awaiting its awakening in the distant caverns of his mind.

As he meets the Duke’s gaze, he realizes that it doesn’t matter if the man is wearing armour and surrounded by bloodshed or standing in a clean room arrayed in immaculate purple – his eyes stay the same; cold as a winter’s night.

And he shivers from the cold of his gaze and wishes for a tinkling laugh which always seemed to melt every chill and warm him from every icy day.

And then the Duke is speaking and he is offered a choice. And the owner of the tinkling laugh is placed within his grasp and he sees her image, resurrected and alive in his mind’s eye and he chooses.

He may become a traitor to his country, a betrayer of his friend. But he is so very cold – he has been for fifteen years – and he has longed for an age and shivered in a tiny cell for an hundred lifetimes while her warmth fades from his heart.

And now a blazing fire could be his and he will do anything – anything at all, to sit by it and bask in its flickering blaze.

And so he closes his eyes and sees his wife once more. He gazes at her in hope and opens his lips and promises to be a traitor.

But in his mind he isn’t making a vow to doom a country.

He is swearing an oath to be warm.

A little while more, my love …

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via pinterest

 

Characters, Unlikely

… she wrote a mirror and stared at her reflection.

Whew! February is over. Now things have slowed down and … goodness gracious! Is it Chatterbox again?

Yes … yes it is. The subject this month is Mirrors. This time, instead of Robert, I’ve written of Peronell Malkyn of Unlikely.

I rather enjoyed writing this, and will not apologise for its length.

A mirror. Just because.

– – – –

The library was empty – Scribe Destrian and his assistants had long since retired for the night. The sole light was a candle, standing on a little desk and casting out its weak beams to the room around, touching with a feeble flicker the high bookshelves which towered forever upwards, the ends of their height hidden in a blanket of darkness; like mountain peaks obscured by cloud.

The only noise was the scratch of a quill upon parchment and the soft breathing of a figure hunched over the writing desk.

Her brow was furrowed and her nose was scrunched as she attempted to write.

It’s all very busy here, one could read (if one was in the line of deciphering scrawled and blotched writing) though I’m like a ghost. Walking the halls with soundless footsteps.

I don’t miss you – the line was written with brutal honesty – as you only ever teased me. But as your younger sister it is my duty to wonder how you fare, I’m trying to do my duty you see, even though our sister has firmly taken most opportunities out of my hands. I can’t say that I resent her, for surely I made a mess of giving the farewell cup at your parting.

She frowned – why give an opening for teasing? A line was drawn through the offending words.

The King is in good health, she wrote helpfully, and so is our brother, the Crown Prince. These too were crossed out with a thick black line (and a droplet of ink which escaped the writer’s best efforts). Of course Linus would know if the Royal Family were suffering any harmful malady; it was foolish to write the obvious.

Sometimes, she wrote with the air of one giving a precious confidence, I think that the Creator made a dreadful mistake – here she bit her lip; did one spell mistake with a ‘c’? The word’s last two letters were given a small inkblot so the meaning was clear but the spelling was not – and should have given the King and our late Mother another prince. A prince who could ride into battle and bravely uphold the honour of our country with the sword.

As it is, she wrote with lips set in a firm line, I am entirely useless. A frown creased her brow; it was not pleasant to describe oneself with such a morbid word.

I am entirely unable – was written instead – to do such a thing. Nor am I suited to be the Mistress of the Palace; a station which our sister so admirably fills.

My Lord Tomas has suggested that reading does not benefit anyone except myself – reading a tale of heroic deeds is not the same as going – here, ‘going’ was heavily underlined – and doing the heroic deeds oneself. Though how a maiden with no knowledge of swordplay can defeat (with a sword) a fearsome foe is yet to be seen.

I don’t know what to do – save be a ghost, of course. I’ve perfected that. You, my dear brother, can do heroic things. Our brother will one day be a king and our sister will always be the shining, gentle Beauty of our country.

The Creator knows what He wants me to be. I hope, truly I do, that it isn’t to be a ghost. I wish He would show me … but until then – would you mind awfully slaying an evil enemy in my name?

I remain your devoted sister.

But her hand hesitated in signing her name. Carefully she reread what she had written and began to cross out words. Lines. Sentences.

It seemed too close – a reflection of herself written in black ink upon a cream page. Too real, too raw.

The silence weighed heavily.

She sat there – in that large room with its multitude of books, tales, stories – utterly alone.

The letter was heavily lined now – everything save the opening greeting was crossed through and she felt almost breathless. She would not send it to Linus, for she knew that if he peeked between the lines and lifting them, looked underneath – he would see her.

Like a mirror that had its image frozen.

She didn’t like mirrors.

Characters, On Writing, The Many Trials of a Blacksmith

Memories in a Cloudless Night

It’s Chatterbox again, but this time the topic is ‘Criticism’. Once again I really enjoyed this exercise and present, without further adieu … Robert, of The Many Trials of a Blacksmith

—-

He lay on his back, wrapped up in his thin cloak.

The sound of the waves, the scent of the sea, and the sight of the stars filled his senses, and yet instead of bathing in the wonder of a still and cloudless night, his mind pressed in upon him.

Phantom shouts and shadowed sights filled his ears and eyes.

He heard the overseer once more: “Move faster!”

He saw the mocking look. “Good enough” – a heartbeat of hope, crushed with the next words – “for a cripple.”

Memories – how they surged.

A log fell in the fire. Sparks flew high in the air.

Leon snored and Garth mumbled in his sleep.

Memories – how they drew him back to years long past.

“We are weak.” It was George this time, appearing in front of him in the mist of time; that mouth curled in its ever scornful way. “No – it is not we … it is you.”

He remembered the twinge of pain those words had given him. Remembered the calm reply he had forced out of lips which longed to snarl – to bite back that it was the right way – the only way, you fool!

“Knave!” ‘twas Master Hughes, regarding him – his tardy apprentice – with narrowed eyes. “I looked for you this morn. Where have you been – loitering? Lazy cur.”

I was saving a child; giving a widow the life of her son, he ached to explain. But the words were never spoken – secrecy was more important than speech.

And then he remembered his youth; the farm, the dawn which came without fail and the brother who had long since past.

He remembered the quick look at the field – ploughed underneath a hot sun with little water to quench his thirst – “‘Bit wonky, Bert.”

A sharp breath and he was back; feeling the dampness of the sand beneath his cloak, hearing the crackle of the fire and the roll of the wave.

And then another memory rose into his mind – the crinkle of a page as he turned it, the old ink forming letters which meant so much: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

He rested in the words – floated in their peace; slept in their calm. The memories dispelled as if they were a suffocating mist and the words a burning sun.

In the morning – when Garth greeted him with a grunt and Leon asked how he slept, he would reply simply:

“Well.”