Prance and Preen and Swoon – #NANWRIMO Day 20 – 33,237 #wordcount

I didn’t think I was going to write tonight.  In fact, I had pretty much decided it was ok if I didn’t — since sleep is important and I’m feeling rather exhausted.  But as I laid here in bed, I thought why not?  I didn’t really have any ideas, but I thought I might as well try to write some of the parts that I have been avoiding – things I know should happen, but I don’t feel strong enough to write them.  I’ve always told myself throughout this process that I could write those “challenging” parts in the rewrite 🙂

So I wrote, and got about 1180 words in.  It was alright.  Not super thrilled, but it worked and it was a start.  I’ll fix it in post as they say.

For tonight’s excerpt, I decided to post something I wrote a few days ago — the fight between Jo and Cal.  I mentioned it in a previous post, but I never posted it.  This scene comes after their good friend Tamsen has been kidnapped by slave catchers who believe him to be a fugitive slave, and Jo and Cal get beat up trying to stop it.  When Jo comes to (after being knocked out) she and Cal have words — and not happy ones.

As always, would love any thoughts, feedback, questions, ideas, or anything you wish to offer.  Thanks in advance!

*****McKendrick Saga Excerpt — Nanwrimo day 20 *********

“You got knocked out, Jo.  That man gave you some shiner, let me tell you.”

Jo looked awful.  Already Jo’s eye was swelling shut, the purpling extending from the bridge of her nose across her cheek to her temple.  A sick feeling swirled in Cal’s gut – a feeling that had nothing to do with the dozens of kicks and punches he’d sustained in that area.  This was all his fault.  If he hadn’t relented, if he hadn’t given in to her relentless pestering about taking her to “the games” as she put it.  The near miss at the horse races had only whetted her appetite for more.  Jo loved taking risks, she loved the thrill of the chase, the way impending danger made her blood run.  He knew this about her, and yet still he had given in.  Despite his better judgment, he had given in and look where it had gotten them.  Both hurt and Jo nearly killed besides.  What a fool he’d been!  He should have been the gentleman he had been raised to be, and told her no -absolutely no – when she had asked to go back.  But who was he kidding?  He had never, not once, been able to deny Jo anything she’d wanted.  Instead, he’d convinced himself that if he didn’t take her, she would find a way to go on her own.  No, he rationalized, he needed to be there to keep her out of trouble, to keep her safe.

But she’d gotten hurt anyway.  All because of his weakness for her.

He pulled Jo up off the ground and into his arms.  He stroked the other side of her face.  She was still groggy from coming to; Cal doubted she was even aware of him or her surroundings, at least not fully, not yet.

Jo could feel his arms encircling her, protective, warm — safe.  Images of a struggle flashed in her mind.  Two men.  Tamsen, hooded, tied.  Calvin kicked into a pile against the wall.  Her knife, sawing ropes, then flashing in her hand in an arc, an arc coming down, down toward the fleshy jowls of a big burly man, and…

She shot up and out of his arms without warning, then swooned- unsteady.

“Where’s Tamsen?”  Jo cried, panicky. “You stopped them didn’t you? Please tell me you stopped them?” She said, her eyes met Cal’s, filled with hopeful desperation.

He was silent.  That look on her face.  She was depending on him.  She believed that he could make things right.  But he hadn’t.  He’d failed her in more than one way today.  He shook his head no.  Her face fell.  It was all coming back to her now. The fight, Calvin in a pile against the wall, her with a knife, facing off her two attackers, the punch to her face.  Her head in the dirt, watching through blurry eyes as they dragged Tamsen into the coach — the last thing she saw before she passed out.  She raised two fingers to her face; she couldn’t even feel her left eye socket.  Her eye had nearly swollen shut.  Touching anything in that area made her wince.  She noticed Cal holding his ribs gingerly and doing a fair amount of wincing himself.

Cal was on his feet now, pulling her up with him.

“Come on Jo, I’ve got to get you home.  Its almost dark and you’re hurt.”

Her one open eye flew wide, casting him an accusing look.

“You can’t be serious?  I’m not going home now.”

“Jo listen to me, you’ve got to go home,” Cal was straining for breath now, “You need a doctor to look at that eye, and I –I believe I need one too.”

Jo could see that he was hurt and needed a doctor. But she was fine.  So she had a shiner.  That was nothing compared to the torture Tamsen must be enduring at this moment, scared and alone with those two animals.  No, she couldn’t go home even if she wanted to.  Even if she could see that it would ease Cal’s all too apparent worry.  She had to find Jared.  He was the only one she knew who could do something about this.  And Tamsen was his friend after all.

“I’m fine Cal, you go.  I’m not going — I need to get help.  I need Jared.”

Cal couldn’t believe her – she didn’t have an ounce of sense in her body!

“You can’t go like that,” he pleaded. “Let’s go home first, please”  Cal prayed she would relent.  He was too sore and too weary to fight her right now.

Jo felt herself softening towards Cal, but she shoved it aside.  Now was not a time for softness.

“No Cal, I’ve got to find Jared first.  He’ll know what to do.  You said you were meeting them for dinner, so where are they?”  Jo demanded, her tone harsher than she’d intended.

“I just said that to get you out of the knife shop Jo – I didn’t mean it.”  Cal shot back, his temper rising.

“I know you know where they are,” She insisted again. She bore a look of desperation that Cal had never seen before.

Calvin stood tall now, despite the soreness in his side. “Look Jo, enough.” He said, feeling a desperation of his own. “If you aren’t willing to see to your own safety, then I will – by god!”

“Are you saying I can’t take care of myself? I can see to my safety just fine!” Jo snapped back, insulted.

“Your face says otherwise,” Cal retorted. “For heavens sakes Jo, what is this – this obsession you have with danger?  It’s a death wish.” Cal leaned heavily on the alley wall now for support.  He continued, “I think you do mean to die before you reach sixteen years of age.”

“We don’t have time for this right now!” She said, utterly exasperated. “Tamsen is god knows where, enduring god knows what or worse! We don’t have time for your pride, or mine for that matter!” Jo softened her tone now, pleading, “Please, I need to find my brother, and he’s with Robert tonight.  I know you know where they are, please Cal – please just tell me.”

But Cal had been here before with her, had succumbed on endless ocassoins to that soft, lovely, pleasing, cajoling voice.  Not today.  Not when her very well-being was on the line.  He would be strong, he had to.

“Jesus Jo, would you look at yourself?  You look like you’ve just been kicked in the face, your clothes are torn, you were knocked out cold and almost killed — and still its not enough for you is it?  Will it ever be?” Calvin was shouting at her now.

Jo stood there stunned.  Calvin never shouted, never lost his temper with her.  His chest heaved up and down, red splotches dotted his face.  He reminded Jo of her mother having one of her hysterical fits.   Perhaps the brawl had addled his brain.

“You’ve gotta go home  — just stop acting crazy and act like a girl!” he added.

Her jaw dropped.  “What did you just say to me?” Jo said, her voice low with suppressed rage.

“I said,” Cal spoke with a fire she had never seen in him before, “you’ve got to act like the young lady you are – and this —“ he gestured wildly at all of her, “is not how young ladies act!  Why can’t you just be a normal girl?  Why do you always have to prove how tough you are?  Get yourself into situations where you’ll get hurt?  Where you’ll get others hurt?”  He was huffing and puffing with the effort of yelling, his ribs digging into his lungs on every breath, his face flush with the effort.  He collapsed into the wall now, nearly all of his meager energy spent.

If Cal’s face was red, then Jo’s face was crimson.  Her blood boiled within her, at the thought, the thought that her best friend in the whole world, the person that knew her best – knew all of her secrets, and accepted her and loved her anyway, would ever say what Calvin had just said.

“Oh? Its a girl you want? A good girl to look pretty and dress pretty and mind what you say?” She hissed.

“I didn’t say that Jo, I just want you to be safe,” Cal countered quietly, the fight had all gone out of him.

But the flood gates inside Jo had opened, and there was no holding back the torrent.

“An obedient girl to do your bidding, to be your trophy, your manly pride’s accessory, a useless plaything to be bought and petted, to swoon and faint at your touch – at —at —  your kiss?” She spat unthinkingly. If Jo had been in her right mind, she would have gasped at what she had said, the awful intimacy of it – especially in light of all they had shared that day.  But Jo was not in her right mind.  Not by half.

Cal’s face fell, his face a pained mask of horror and embarrassment. Jo had said it to hurt him, the same way he had hurt her when he told her to be a lady.  Jo knew she should have never said it though, because the truth was she did nearly swoon when he had kissed her.  She was a liar, a fraud.  But Cal didn’t know that.  It was done and Jo didn’t have the time or the inclination to take it back or apologize.  She was still consumed with her anger and pressed forward with a commitment that shattered any shred of compassion she might have mustered.

“Well if its a lady that you want” she said with a sneer, “then Lucinda’s house is that way.  I’m sure she’d fairly die to prance, preen, swoon, and faint for you.”

Jo turned and stormed away leaving a stunned Cal in her wake, and for the first time – perhaps ever— he didn’t follow.

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