Chug Chug Chugging Along – Nanowrimo Day 5

I broke the 10,000 mark!  Hooray! 🙂

I realize I am posting this after midnight, so technically this is Day 6.  However, this post is about my writing on Day 5, so I think I can take the liberty 🙂

I was able to get in 1489 today, and for the most part, I liked what I wrote.  So, even though I didn’t get as many words down as I wanted, at least what I wrote was satisfying.  I’ve included it below for anyone who has thoughts or feedback they want to share.

And thank you to all my new friends and follows!  Its so much easier to do this when you have writing and reading buddies.  From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

*********** Excerpt from Book 1 *************

Dorthea unbundled a bolt of silk brocade with a flick of her wrists.

“Here, hold this,” she said, handing the rest of the bolt to Lu.  With the skill of a thousand fittings under her belt, Dorthea draped, and folded, and fitted over every contour of Jo’s body fashioning an elegant creation held together with naught but tin pins.  Dorthea was talented, for the illusion was complete.  It was beautiful, Jo had to admit.

“Ohhhh Jo, its so beautiful! I would die for such a gown!” Lu said, her voice dripping with unabashed envy.

“I think I may die for wearing such a gown,” Jo mumbled testily.

Dorthea nodded at Lu’s complement, ignoring Jo. She waited for Charity’s assessment.

Charity look at Dorthea’s handiwork, inspecting the way each fold formed and fell away from Jo’s frame.  After several moments of scrutiny, Charity gestured at Jo’s bustline and said, “It’s nice enough but we need to do something here.  There should be more… more… well, just something more.”

“I think we’re doing about as much as we can with what we have to work with, Mrs. McKendrick,” Dorthea said, arching an eyebrow.

Jo could feel the heat rising in her face.  Lu discretely turned away to inspect some other fabrics near the wall.

“Well there must be something you can do,” Charity insisted.

Dorthea was quiet for several moments. Then without a word, she left the room.

“You’ve done it now mother, you’ve insulted the modiste!” Jo said, her tone lightly mocking. Perhaps the fitting was over and they could go home.  She crossed her fingers hopefully.

Her mother’s face was tight, her mouth open and ready to retort.

“I think I have just the thing,” Dorthea said, returning to the room.  Her hands held a stiff contraption made of whale bones, stays, and more hooks than Jo had ever seen before on a garment. She recognized it immediately.

“Oh no, no! you are not putting me in that—“ Jo said, attempting to step down off of the pedestal.  But she was still pinned tightly, and the pins were digging into her skin in a hundred painful places.

“Come now, its not as bad as it looks,” Dorthea responded.  Without another moment’s hesitation she tossed the corset over her shoulder and began undoing the pins and fabric that held Jo prisoner.  She tossed the fabric to Lu once again.

“Raise your arms if you please,” she ordered.  Jo reluctantly obeyed and Dorthea slipped the corset down over her arms and head, securely it into place over her chest and abdomen.

“Jolene, it’s important for you to remember that if you want to make the best possible match, you must make sure all of your assets are put to bear,” Charity instructed.

“Really, mother.  I am only fourteen.” Jo said. “I have no assets!”  Jo looked at herself in the mirror.  There was definitely nothing to bare.

“Nearly fifteen my dear, and I wed your father at not much more,” Charity argued.

“Nevertheless, I am not in want of a husband.”

“Nonsense Jolene. All well-bred young ladies are in want of a husband.” Charity continued, “it is how one secures one’s future in this world.”

Well not me, Jo thought.  I will secure my own future, thank you very much.  Though, she didn’t have the nerve to say so to her mother.  What good would it do anyway?  Charity was on a roll, still talking about the importance of finding a husband, one of means and consequence.  Jo was quite certain that Charity had a list somewhere of every eligible male in Boston, from wealthy white-bearded widowers to young whisker-less heirs to banking fortunes, to aspiring doctors and lawyers barely out of Harvard.  She wouldn’t be surprised if Charity had through a few ministers in for good measure. No one was safe from Charity’s machinations.

Dorthea pulled the corset into place, forcing an involuntary grunt from Jo.  Her nimble fingers began working the endless array of hooks.

Charity was still blathering on.  From the corner of her eye, Jo caught Lucinda nodding in agreement. Did Lu really believe this drivel?  That you had to marry a man to secure your future? Jo could do almost anything as well as a boy.  Her brother Jared had even told her so many times.

It would be easy to just chalk it all up to an adoring brother that was more than a little biased, but she knew there were many things she could do better than her male counterparts: ride, shoot, swim, hunt, gamble, argue, think.  Over the years she’d had many friends that were boys.  She was always better, tougher, more capable than any of them.  Definitely not a damsel in distress, her independence had driven a wedge in more than one friendship with young men who seemed to want to play the hero in the “Ballad of Jolene.”  Her only true male friend now was Calvin, and she was pretty sure that was only because she couldn’t best him at tree-climbing or poker.  He definitely couldn’t out-argue her (she knew that from experience), and perhaps riding was a draw.  She’d have to give the whole idea some more thought.

A sharp tug jolted Jo back into the present moment.  Dorthea had finished the hooks and moved behind Jo to pull the stays tighter and tighter.

“I just think its such a lovely idea to raise money for the Indigent Aid Society for Mothers and Children,” Lu was chiming in now.  Apparently the talk had turned to the purpose of the soiree.

“Its about time somebody did something about those Irish,” Charity said.  Her voice rolling uncomfortably over the word Irish, as if she found it distasteful in her mouth.

“What do you mean, do something?” Jo challenged.  “What is it that must be done?”

Another yank of the stays and Jo was toppling over.  Her right foot moved again to brace herself.  Jo gave Dorthea a sharp look.  If Dorthea noticed, Jo couldn’t tell.

“Oh Jolene, don’t be so obtuse.  You know as well as I that the city is overrun with them, like rats.”

Charity’s face was anything but charitable.

She continued,  “all of them with their grubby little hands out, waiting for the rest of us to fill them.  You’d think they’d care more about finding work, and support themselves in a more dignified manner.”

Jo felt a lump forming in her chest as she thought of the situation facing the city’s poorest residents.  Many a night she had sat in her secret spot hidden on the stair, listening to Jared and his friends talk about the problem of the Irish and how to best help them.  From her eavesdropping, Jo knew quite a lot.  For more than a decade,  refugees from the Irish famine continued to make their way to Boston – to what they hoped was salvation.  Many had arrived to find very little to assuage their suffering.  Few places to live, fewer places to work, and at times blatant hostility from Boston’s long time residents.

Jo was well aware of her mother’s opinions on the Irish immigrants filling the city, but to be so outspoken about them?  And with Donna practically right there in the room!  Jo chanced a glance in the mirror, using the reflection to see through the curtained doorway that led to the front of the shop.  She caught a glimpse of Donna’s silhouetted profile waiting patiently near the front door.  She couldn’t make out her expression, but her posture, however, appeared stiff and rigid.  So she had heard then.

Jo felt an irrational need to defend her beloved maid.

“Mother, most barely survived the horrors of starvation and then to face that terrifying journey across the ocean.  I’m sure those that can, are looking for work.  And what of Donna?  She is the best ladies’ maid I think we’ve ever had.”  Jo said, with childlike conviction.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself.  If Donna is capable its only because she is singular among her people —an exception to the rule.”

“Her people?  Her people?”  Jo’s chest heaved.  Her face flushed.  Her breath came faster.  The words raced from her head to her mouth with not a second thought to stop them.

“I think you mean our people, don’t you?” Jo challenged.

“We are NOT Irish,” Charity huffed.

“Father is!” Jo shot back.

“You’re father is Scots!”  Charity was indignant now, her voice sounding shrill amidst the tangible tension.

“Father’s family emigrated first to Ireland before coming here,” Jo countered, determined to make her point. “And father says that we still have family members in many parts of Ire—OW!“

Jo yelped loudly as Dorthea yanked the stays of her corset tight enough to make her see spots.

“I said, your father is Scots.”  Charity looked directly at Jo, her eyes on fire.

Jo inhaled for her next verbal parry, but the air had no place to go.  Thanks to Dorthea, the corset had her lungs (and her voice) locked up tight.


5 thoughts on “Chug Chug Chugging Along – Nanowrimo Day 5

  1. Pingback: Anastasiabetts: A Fellow NaNoWriMo’er who Dares to Excerpt | Jack Frey

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