NaNoWriMo Day 2: Getting A Job!

I literally just lost my post.  Sadness.  Sorry you will miss all of my cleverness that I am now too tired to retype. 🙂

So down to brass tacks.  My daughter Halie is the best writing coach ever.  I want to thank her for all of her help.  I have no idea how she got so smart about telling stories, but her advice is honest, real, and spot on.  I feel like tonight’s excerpt is so much better because of her feedback.

So tonight’s excerpt actually takes place just before the excerpt I posted for Nanowrimo day 1.  Basically, in yesterday’s excerpt, Ella was slowly making her way to the Poe house where she hoped to be hired on.  In tonight’s excerpt, its the interview she has with the agent who tells her about the job in the first place.

So without further adieu, here’s excerpt 2.

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SvDemo.Ray.McCorkle

The Revivalist

By Anastasia Betts

Chapter Excerpt

Ella sat, waiting for her turn on a very hard, very uncomfortable bench in the furthest corner of an office that could charitably be described as dank.  A musty miasma wafted about, invading Ella’s nostrils. The smell reminded her of Aunt Phyllis’ old attic.   A ferocious nor-easter had blown in the roof one year —it had rained for days and days. The whole house had flooded but the attic had the worst of it.  Aunt Phyllis never did get the damp out of room after that, no matter how she tried.  The smell of mold and old wet decay lingered for years in the attic, and even longer in Ella’s memory.  She rubbed her nose absentmindedly, feeling an odd, yet familiar tickle. Her nose always itched in the presence of mold.

“This is a nice office,” Ella said brightly.  She was nervous, and she always tended to talk more than she should when she was nervous.

“Mm-hmm,” the young man said, not bothering to look up from his ledgers.

“I visited an office once like this, with my father,” she continued. “He had business in town from time to time.”  She waited for Mr. Jones’ secretary to reply.  He did not.

Ella fidgeted.  The clocked ticked away on the mantle on the far wall. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.  Ella began to count the tick-tocks to keep her mind busy and her mouth closed.  One… two…

She was never one to sit still and this was something of a small torture for her. Fifteen. Sixteen.

The furious scraping of the secretary’s pencil added a counterpoint to the tick-tocking. Thirty. Thirty-one.

Ella began to tap a jaunty little rhythm on the wood floor.  It was something of a trick to manage the rhythm and the tick-tock counting at the same time.  The challenge entertained her and before long she had a bit of a funny percussive ditty going.  She smiled to herself and began to hum. Fifty-five. Fifty-six.

The secretary slammed the pencil down hard on his books, and sighed heavily.

Ella stopped counting tick-tocks.

She began examined the small waiting room instead.  It only took a minute to decide it was a dark and uninteresting, excepting the smell that reminded her of Aunt Phyllis’ attic, but she’d already thought about that and just thinking about it again wasn’t enough to interest her.

“Excuse me…” she started.

“Be patient,” the secretary behind the desk cut her off mid-sentence. “Mr. Jones is a very busy many and will be with you shortly.”

Ella eyed the secretary with no small amount of annoyance.  He was oblivious, his nose still in his books.

“…I was about to say, could I have a glass of water?”  Ella said with an edge. She was never very good at masking her feelings, or her thoughts for that matter.

The gentleman frowned in her direction.  His frown was not lost on Ella.

Darn it, Ella.  Get a hold of yourself. 

Ella put on as sweet a smile as she could muster, and added prettily “please?”

The young man softened a bit, stood, and went to retrieve a glass of water from the pitcher at the sideboard.  He strode across the room with heavy, purposeful footfalls, and handed the water to Ella, managing to slosh some of it onto her. But as the door to the private office behind him opened, she promptly forgot his rudeness.  A short squat man with narrow eyes and a fat handlebar mustache appeared at the threshold.  His bald head glistened in the daylight streaming in from the window, and dark damp spots stained his sleeves where his arms joined his body.  She was convinced she never saw a man so sweaty in her life, and she had watched her father plow many a field in the height of summer.

“Who’s here?”  Mr. Jones hollered, much louder than was seemly.

“Just a girl sent over from the Quaker School in Philadelphia,” the secretary replied

Ella bristled at being referred to as “just a girl,” but managed to hold her peace.

The younger gentleman handed Mr. Jones the card that Ella had provided.  It was the card that Headmaster Prior had instructed her to present at Harvey Jones Esquire when she arrived in Trenton. And so she had.

“Ah, yes, yes.” Mr. Jones pushed his spectacles up further on his nose to get a better look at the card.  “Sent over by my good friend Charles Prior, very good.”  Mr. Jones smiled kindly at Ella and motioned her forward.

“Come in here, and let’s see if we can find you something to do.”

Now that she was no longer his responsibility, the young man returned to his desk and paid Ella no further attention.  Ella swished past him and into Mr. Jones office, hoping that her interview would fair better than her time with his secretary had.

“Have a seat here, uh, Miss…”

“Miss Whitby,” Ella provided, “Miss Eleanor Whitby.”

She smoothed her skirts as she sat on the chair provided.  Her back erect, her hands folded demurely in her lap, she worked to remember all the lessons in etiquette and propriety she had had at school, and put them to full effect now.  Never had a meeting been so important or mattered so much.  With her parents gone now, it was up to her to provide for herself and for Alice.  The loss was still fresh, and tears threatened.  But Ella was growing used to pushing away her grief.  She had never imagined that at the tender age of eighteen, so much would be thrust upon her.  Its funny how children always seem to think their parents will be around forever, she mused — to love and protect, to care for their children.  But those were just the foolish imaginings of a child.

Over the past few weeks, much had happened, and she had learned so much.  Much more than she had wanted to learn.   She had learned that the beautiful farm that she had grown up on, that had been in her family for at least two generations or more, no longer belonged to her family.  She had learned the unhappy fact within days of her parents’ death.  There was no money to bury them.  She had had to sell everything. All the animals, her favorite milk cow, Ruby the silly goat she had hand reared when her mother rejected her, a modest flock of sheep they had used for a small wool exchange, a whole brood of prime egg laying hens.  And still, she was forced to rely upon the charity of friends in order to settle outstanding debts and to provide a final resting spot for her beloved mother and father.  They now rested in peace at Christ’s Church Cemetery, just across from the Friends Meeting House on Arch Street.  It seemed fitting, she thought.  Her family had spent so many days and nights at that Friends Meeting House.  Even better, it was very near the Quaker school that her sister, and until this week Ella herself, attended. Which meant that any time, any time at all, Alice and Ella could walk the short distance to spend time at their gravesides.  Ella couldn’t have known that the time that she would need to leave Philadelphia, and that such moments of solace would be lost to her.

Her life in Philadelphia was over now.  As was her dream of a future residency at the New York’s Infirmary for Women after graduation. Her acceptance had been a conditional one after all, contingent on her graduation from Quaker School with honors.  The honors part was easy, as Ella was a meticulous and eager student.  But without the necessary funds for tuition, completing her education at Quaker Friends was an impossibility.  It had destroyed her to learn that her father had mortgaged everything to pay for her and Alice’s schooling.  But it had been an easy thing to sacrifice her last year’s tuition to make Alice’s education possible, or so she kept telling herself.  Alice had suffered enough with the loss of their mother and father.  She needed the support of her friends and mentors at school.  No, Ella thought.  I made the right decision.  Besides, I haven’t quit my schooling.  I’ve just put it on hold for a bit. 

“…medicine, is that right?”

Ella snapped back into the present, unable to make sense of Mr. Jones last words.  He was waiting expectantly for her to answer.  She wracked her brain trying to recall what he had been saying.  She could not.

“I must beg your pardon sir, could you please repeat your last question?” She asked politely. Hopefully.

Mr. Jones huffed slightly, “Pay attention girl.  You’ll never get through an interview with a prospective employer if you can’t prevent yourself from going all addled-brained.”  But his toned softened and he continued, “Listen, I know you’ve been through a lot.  Charles sent me a letter that explained your situation somewhat.  But I’ve got to know more about what skills you have.  Now it says here in the letter that you received top marks in your schooling, and that you planned to continue your education in the field of science or medicine, is that right?”

“Yes sir, that is correct.  The top of my class, out of both young ladies and young men.  We’re a co-ed school.”  She replied, with some amount of pride in her tone.

“That’s well and good, but I don’t rightly have much call for a lady science student.  And since you didn’t finish, I can’t send you out as a governess or school teacher, though I suspect you might be better suited and skilled to the prospect than most others I’ve ever placed.”

“Well, I can read and write with some expertise I like to think,  I can dissect an animal cleaner than any hospital surgeon; I can separate the parts of a nerve with a scalpel, I can tell you how your heart works, I can diagnose over a hundred different common ailments and prescribe the proper treatment. I can cross breed over a thousand different types of plant species, expertly midwife any farm animal you like and hand rear its young if the mother doesn’t make it or doesn’t take a liking to her babe..”

“Yes, yes, yes… I know that you have tremendous intellect when it comes to science and medicine,”

“But there’s more,” Ella said.

He held up a hand, silencing her.

“Miss Whitby, this would all be well and good but I have absolutely no jobs that require your particular skills or knowledge.  Is there anything else?  Anything at all?  Some hidden talent that you’ve forgotten?”

“Well, I can play piano and sing a little…” she said weakly.

He sighed.

A sinking feeling began to form in her stomach.  She had worked so hard, and put in so many hours on her studies.  Becoming a physician was all she had ever thought about, for as long as she remembered.  Elizabeth Blackwell, Emily Blackwell, Maria Zakrzewska, Eleanor Whitby.  Her name was supposed to be up there with the greatest women physicians of all time.  She had even forced herself to overcome her revulsion and moral objection to studies that involved live subjects.  Blood was a problem, but she had licked it.   And now, after all of that work, after the demonstration of incredible intellect and competence, to be told she wasn’t fit to teach children, or to be a ladies companion, or to work in an office, or some or other medical establishment?  The ironies of life were astounding, she thought.

She began to feel desperate.  This was her one chance, her one opportunity to secure her future. She couldn’t fail.

“Mr. Jones, please listen.  I can not — I can not – leave your office without a job or a prospect of one.  I will do anything.  I’m a hard worker and fast learner.  I’m an early riser, and willing to work late in to the evening if that is what the task requires.  I’m of sound mind and healthy constitution – I almost never get sick,” she took a breath to continue.

“Now that’s something I can work with,” Mr. Jones interrupted.

She waited anxiously.  He reached into his desk, pulled out a slip of paper, and looked intently at it.  Then, he looked directly at Ella.

“Miss Whitby, I don’t know if this is the job for you, but its the only one of got that you seem fit for.  And, with all you’ve just told me, I’ve reconsidered.  Now I have to warn you, the employer is a bit of an eccentric.”

“An eccentric?”

“Yes, he has some peculiar ways of doing things, very private man, likes everything just so.”

“But what is the job?” Ella asked, intrigued.

“Oh the job is nothing so mysterious as its sounds.  He’s in need of a house maid.”

Ella’s enthusiasm evaporated a little, but not altogether.  She could do that.  She was no stranger to cleaning.

“That seems like an easy job to fill,” she mused aloud.

“Yes, one would think so.  But it has been strangely difficult to keep people employed at the Poe house,” he reached over the top of his desk to hand her the slip of paper.  She took it eagerly and began to read it, still having trouble processing what he was saying.

“The Poe house? As in Edgar Allen?”

“As in George Poe.  Edgar’s cousin.”

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#NaNoWriMo Day 1 — Feeling Groovy

So this year, I decided to work on a book I worked on a couple of years ago.  Its a story I’ve had in my head for quite sometime — based on or inspired by true events and historical persons, etc.  Though the story itself is my own creation, with fictional protagonists and antagonists.  Its a dark tale of intrigue and ethical conflict in the late 19th century, about a young girl that finds herself caught up in the morally dubious world of medical research in turn of the century America.  These are the days of Pasteur and Lister, and many other men all looking to get their name on some new patent, pathology, or other medical discovery.  Its the wild west of early medicine, where there are no rules and its anyone’s game.

The coolest part of the story is that one of the historical figures is actually a cousin of the famous Edgar Allen Poe, and so the story very much has the feeling of one told by the master of the macabre…  that is if I can tell it write.  Who knows, but I am trying.

I did hit my word count today, so here’s an excerpt.  This scene takes place with the main character, Ella, first makes her way to Poe’s house where she hopes to find employment.  Of course the house is in a scary, isolated wood…  of course.

I’m just posting an excerpt of what I wrote below.  Be kind, its raw and unedited, straight off the presses…

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The Revivalist….  by Anastasia Betts

Excerpt

For the second time this night, Ella steeled her resolve and willed her exhausted body into action.  Once again she hefted her bag, and squeezed her way, quite awkwardly, through the narrowly open gate which refused to open further.  Her person made it through well enough, but her large bag nearly didn’t.  Some vigorous tugging, grunting, and twisting finally saw the job done.

Ella sighed heavily. Weary and bedraggled, coated with sweat underneath her layers of clothing, she began to feel a chill of a different sort.  Now within the property, she could see marginally better.  Trees with sharp angled branches crowded the drive, having already lost their leaves in anticipation of a long winter sleep. It seemed too early to have done so, Ella thought, but perhaps winters in these parts were harsh and came early.

The ground was moist and soft as she walked, sucking slightly at her boots with each step.  The going was slow and cumbersome, not to mention very unfortunate for her boots and skirt hem.  She only hoped her new employer – prospective employer, she corrected – would be understanding.  After all, she never expected to have to walk all this way in the dark, and through the mud!

Her legs were weary, her bag heavier with each step.  From time to time she would stop, and transfer the bag to her other hand – too afraid to set it down on the ground lest it too become muddied.  Her arms ached with the effort.  “I must have walked two miles already carrying this old thing!” She said to the trees who seemed not to care one whit for her trouble. Her pronouncement was met with silence followed by the faint thudding of hooves beating a rapid tattoo in the distance.  She whipped around to face the direction she had come.  If her ears could be believed, and she wasn’t entirely sure they could since fog was known to play tricks with sounds, it seemed to be getting closer.  She stared intently down the drive, but could make nothing out in the fog.  Unconsciously, she pulled up her bag with both hands, hugging it to her chest.  The sound grew louder and faster the longer she listened.

Someone was coming.  Someone was coming fast.

In the blink of an eye, the largest horse and rider Ella had ever scene burst from the fog and was upon her. She had no time to react before the beast had barreled past her knocking her bag from her arms with the force of a train.  Whipped around, her bag flying, Ella careened wildly off the main part of the road and into the muddy ditch beside. She lay there for a long moment, wondering if she were dead or worse.  But she could feel nothing broken or injured.  She supposed it providence that she had been clutching that big bag of hers, as that was likely what saved her.  She lay there expecting at any moment to hear a concerned voice asking her if she was alright, but it didn’t come.  Somewhere in her addled mind, she registered hoof beats sounding further and further away.

“You just leave me here without an offer of help?”  She exclaimed aloud, incredulous.  Once again the trees had no answer, though she imagined that they must feel sorry for her predicament.  She now wondered if she wanted to work for this employer, if that was in fact her employer riding like the very minions of hell were in pursuit.

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Home Stretch – #nanowrimo Day 30

I’m almost there.  if you read my last post, I had decided to quit, and was ok with it.  I had accepted it.  Then something happened and i started writing again.

I began writing at 9pm, and had 18,000 words left to complete.  It is now nearly 2 am, and I have 7700 words to go.  That means I wrote about 10,300 in 5 hours !! Not too shabby.  My word count stands more or less at 42,300.  Yay for me! 🙂

Anyway, I thought I would post another little excerpt before I go to sleep and “clear the mechanism” as my husband says.

Again, i haven’t done ANY correcting.  Please excuse the mistakes.

******McKendrick Saga, Nanowrimo Excerpt Day 29.5 *****

“But I didn’t get to say goodbye!” Charity wailed. “He never forgave me, not in all this time. He’s gone now and I’ll never be out of disgrace!”

“There, there my dear, its all going to be all right,” Charles looked awkward and uncomfortable as he gingerly patted his wife’s head and shoulder, as one might pat a an adder that could turn and strike at any moment.

“Nooooo nooooo, it will not be alright” Charity continued. Her face contorted in the most unattractive crying that Jared had ever seen, even for Charity. He slunk to the far corners of the drawing room, intent on remaining as invisible an observer of the scene as possible, lest he become the object of Charity’s displeasure as he so often did.

Jolene ran over to her mother, ever one for the direct approach. “Mother, what is it, what is the matter?”

“Tell her Charles, I just can’t!” Charity moaned like she was dying right there on the chaise lounge.

“Your grandfather lockwood, and your uncle Richard Lockwood, both, have unfortunately passed away most unexpectedly as a result of the Cholera epidemic in Boston,” Charles said.

“ohhhhhhhh! It is a tragedy of the greatest proportions!” Charity cried. “My father never forgave me for marrying Charles, and now he never will! Now I will never have my father’s forgiveness or my inheritance!”

“But that is precisely what I’ve been trying to explain, if you will allow me ma’am,” an unfamiliar voice spoke from the far side of the room.

All heads turned toward the smartly dressed elderly man. Charles made the expected introductions, “children, this is Mr. Carlson, Mr. Lockwood’s man at service.”

The man nodded briefly to the children, “how do you do.” He said in a hasty if not perfunctory manner, and turned immediately back to Charles and Charity.

“Ms. Lockwood – eh – I mean Mrs. McKendrick, this is what I have been trying to tell you. Yes, your father is gone – for which I am very sorry and express my sincere condolences – but your brother is gone as well. Which isn’t to say that I’m not sorry for his passing, for I am as well, oh dash it all, I’ve come to tell you that with your brother also gone so suddenly, that you are Mr. Lockwood’s only surviving heir.”

Charity had a stunned look on her face; she ceased crying, though the hiccups continued.

“What do you mean I am the heir?” Charity said, incredulous.

“I mean you are his last surviving child, and therefore his only heir.”

“But my father disinherited me. Since Robert is dead, surely his estate will pass to my evil twin cousins Bert and Barty over in Cheshire County!” Charity insisted, but with a whole lot of hope and very little conviction.

“Would that it were true, at least bert and barty wish it so. But alas it is not the case. Your father never re-drew up his will, he never made your disinheritance legal in any way. Either he believed that the two of you might one day reconcile –“

Charity snorted loudly at this, then covered her face embarrassedly with her soggy hankerchief.

“More like the old son of a gun was too arrogant to believe he might ever die,” Charles grumbled impolitely.

“— or he did not expect, as Mr. McKendrick has said, to die so young. It is fair to say that he never expected your young healthy brother Robert to die at the age of twenty one.”

That started a set of fresh wails from Charity, “ohhh poor Robert! He was so young! He was so handsome and smart! Ohhhh” she cried. “But – “ she stopped and sniffed delicately, “ do I understand you correctly, sir, that because of my dear brother Robert’s untimely death, that all that my father has now passes to me?”

From his darkened corner, Jared rolled his eyes. Was she daft? That was precisely what he had just said. But he held his tongue.

Mr. Carlson replied patiently, “yes Mrs. McKendrick, that is precisely what I am saying. All of the wealth and holdings of Mr. Lockwood, your father, now pass directly to you – well, to your husband actually.”

“To my husband?” Charity cried her voice loud and shrill, “Whatever do you mean? You just said that I was my father’s heir. And daddy hated Charles after all. He would roll over in his grave at the very thought!” She continued, as if Charles were not right there, holding her, comforting her, hearing every unthinking word she uttered.

“That very well may be, but do remember that as a married woman, all of your property, everything you own, belongs to not to you but to your husband.” Mr. Carlson reminded her.

“But that’s not fair,” Jo said, joining the conversation for the first time. She looked apologetically at her father.

“But it is the law,” Mr. Carlson said. “If Mrs. McKendrick was unmarried, she would, indeed, inherit all of the estate. But as a married woman, by law it becomes her husband’s inheritance.”

Charles spoke softly to Charity, “My dear, you know I care nothing for such things, it is your inheritance, even if in the eyes of the law it is mine.”

“And so it should be!” She said hotly. “well never mind, Charles never did have a head for money. I shall manage it all and it shall be as if it were all mine in any case.”

Everyone’s eyes were on Charity now. She had ceased wailing and crying, and there was a scheming look, a calculating look to her now. Her mind was ticking off various properties and investments. The Mill in Lowell, the Mansion on Tremont Street, the Shipping line, and those were just the investments that she knew about.

“Do you have a full accounting of daddy’s estate? I should like to have a look at it immediately,” she said, pulling herself erect and out of Charles tenuous embrace. She no longer needed or wanted his comfort it seemed. Charles moved imperceptibly further from her on the sofa, putting physical distance between them to match the emotional distance that charity had just established.

“There is a great deal to be done, a great deal indeed. We must see to an accounting of all the investments, the accounts are settled, the debts. We must know exactly what we are worth, what must be liquidated, what must stay,” she stood up and began to pace, thinking and talking furiously as she walked about.

“And of course we will have to move back to the mansion on tremount,”

“Move?” Charles said, dazed.

“Of course we will, do you not see your daughter there growing into a young lady? You would not dare deprive her of her legacy as a Boston Brahmin?”

“What’s a Brahmin?” Jo asked, but was promptly ignored.

“And of course we will send your boy off to school – perhaps they can do with him what you have been unable to do, make something of him. I for one shall be glad to have him in someone else keeping for once,” she continued.

Jo looked at Jared, meeting his eyes. He looked cool and unaffected but she knew him. Her words hurt, even if he was well aware of her dislike.

“And Charles will have to take over running the mill –“

“Now see here! Just wait a minute, I don’t know anything about running a mill,” he protested

“So you shall learn! You listen to me Charles McKendrick! I have done it your way for ten years now. For ten years I have sat here in the middle of cow country, and played the pauper’s wife – a life I was never destined to lead. And now, now my destiny has come calling. You. Will. Not. Deny me this. If you love me. If you ever loved me. You will not deny me this Charles! You will bring the family to Boston and take your place in the family business, and you will cease this menial work with cattle!” She was screaming now, the force of her voice filling every inch of the room, sucking the air out so that no one dared breathe, no one dared utter a single word. Even Mr. Carlson stood in complete silence. The only sound to be heard was the deep and hearty draw and exhale of Charity’s heaving chest. Charity stared hotly at Charles, daring him to speak, daring him to contradict a single word of her admonishment. He did not.

Many moments passed. No one spoke, no one moved, no one breathed. The storm that was Charity McKendrick stilled and gentled, and passed.

“Mrs. McKendrick,” Mr. Carlson dared to step into the void, the eye of the squall. “I will have the accounting for you next week, if you can make the trip to town?”

She turned to Mr. Carlson, her eyes flashing with deadly promise, “I most certainly will be there. We shall all be there. With daddy’s money, we most certainly could hire laborers to pack up this old place and move it to the city. “

Charity looked around the humble, yet respectable drawing room her face a mask of disgust– all around her the room was a revelation of the last ten years and the life that Charles had provided for her, for the family. Jolene followed her gaze, confused. What did she find not to her liking? Jo loved this room with its bright and cheery windows and shelves full of books – shelves that her father had made himself, along with much of the furniture.

“No, I daresay there is not a single thing here I would deign to take. I think I shall have all new things, entirely new things.”

“But mother,” Jo began to interject.

Her mother turned on her then, her eyes still burned hotly, as they had when turned on Charles. But Jo was not afraid of her mother.

“Mother there are things here that are special to me. I shall be sad to leave them. I do not even want to move to Boston.” Jo said, making her feelings known.

“Nevertheless, you shall. You shall and you shall grow to love. You are a silly little country mouse. But believe you me, I shall make you into the very belle of society. You will have the chance that I so foolishly abandoned. You will achieve all that I did not.” Charity looked at her and vowed.

“But I do not want to go to Boston! I want to stay here with our horses, I want to stay here with Spirit!” Jo had a temper herself when it came right down to it, Jared decided.

“You will go.” Charity shouted.

“I won’t!” Jo vowed.

The slap was hard and full across Jo’s face, and whipped her head violently to the side.

Charles was on his feet before Charity had even realized what she had done.   Jo looked at her mother, holding her cheek. She looked at her mother as if she didn’t know her, like she was some stranger standing there. Jo had never been struck, not once. Jared had always been the one to be punished, and that had been enough for Jo, seeing his pain.

“I HATE you! I will never forgive you for this, ever!” Jo said, and ran from the room.

Charity, who loved her daughter despite her bitter and resentful nature, was beside herself. “What have I done? What have I done?” She kept repeating nonsensically. Charles just held her and brought her back the sofa.

“My dear its been a trying day, much has happened. You are not yourself,” he soothed.

“Yes, yes, I am not myself, I am not myself.” Charity chanted.

Steamrolling to the End – #NANWRIMO Day 29

I began this day with 18,000 words to go.  I had decided I was done for this year.  I had accepted it.  I had made my peace.  I mean, 32K isn’t bad.  Its definitely further than I’ve ever gotten before.  I rested most of the day, relaxed after the holiday festivities.  It felt good to just do… nothing.

But then something started happening.  Some niggling feeling.  Some voice in my head, relentless.  Are you really not going to finish?  You still have time.  You write fast.  You can do it.  You can bang it out.  Just do it.  I tried to ignore those voices.  I took a nap.  Watched a documentary.  Made dinner.  Went to drop some donations at Goodwill.

Then came home and the voices started again.  Just do it.  You’re a boss.  Think of how amazing you will feel.  Are you really going to let your husband win and you not win with him?  [btw, Aaron has already completed his 50k word count YAY!!!!!].

Anyway, I picked up the laptop and started to write.  I reminded myself it doesn’t have to be good.  Fix it in post.  So in the past two hours, I finished 4k.  That’s pretty awesome.

So I’m on a writing role.  Before I dive back in, I thought I would post an excerpt of the crap I’m writing — the crap that I will polish into diamonds in the revision.  🙂  Ignore the probs please — I will fix.  No time to fix right now.

Send me your good thoughts… I need them.

Heading back into the zone.

*****McKendrick Saga NANOWRIMO Excerpt Day 29 ***

Jo remembered a time when she and Jared had been playing in the kitchens. They did have a cook, Mother had insisted on it, and the cook had been making Chritstmas cakes all day long – for the holiday. Jared was ten and Jo was five – and like all young children they had been in the kitchens sneaking cakes whenever Cooky wasn’t looking.

“Now you’s children get yoselves out of this here kitchen!” Cooky had said, snapping a towel at the two of them. They both just giggle and chased each other around the kitchen table. Unfortunately things had gotten out of hand and as Jo had raced around the table to catch Jared, she had gotten frustrated. Noting the massive bowl of flour in the center of the table, she had on impulse, grabbed it, thrust her hand into the powdery substance to grab a handful, and had thrown it at Jared. The stuff just whipped through the air floating in powdery waterfalls , catching the light, getting everywhere – everywhere save her target – Jared. She grabbed another and another and another – throwing each with childish abandon, and glee. Cooky started squealing loudly over the mess Jolene was making, but Jared and Jo just kept laughing, Jared dodging every throw.

“Stop! Stop this instant you hellions!! Stop I say!”

Jo had expected the voice to belong to Cooky, but it didn’t. No, she recognized that shrill voice, and the maniacal tone too. Both Jared and Jo froze instantly.

“Just what do you think you are doing in here? How do you come to be in here ruckusing about like common street urchins!!! This is your doing isn’t it?!@” Her eagle eyes and landed upon Jared with a predatory intensity.

Jo immediately interjected, “No mother – I started it. I saw the flour and I couldn’t resist. I was trying to hit him with it.”

Charity’s gaze never wavered. Jared just looked at Charity with wide eyes, like a deer or a rabbit facing down a hungry wolf.

“I – I – I – did—didn’t “ he stammered. He was only ten, and Charity could be terrifying. Especially to a ten year old.

Cooky interjected then. “Ma’am, if I may, Miss Jolene has the right of it. She began the kerfuffle, by throwing the flour—“

“Be silent girl!” Charity raged. Her arm snaked out landing in a vise grip on Jared’s ear, jerking him viciously upward. He yelped and stood on his tip toes to allieviate some of the pain.

“But mother, It was me – I promise. Jared was only trying to get away!” Jo pleaded. She ran over to the two of them, and began tugging on her mother’s arm, trying to dislodge it from her brother’s ear. But she only succeeded in pulling her arm down to her miniature level, Jared’s head following suit. He was bent over at the middle now, but Charity paid no mind to Jolene or Jared. With her vise grip as intractable as ever, she began marching Jared out of the kitchen through the back door to the yard where she kept the birch switches.

“No no! Mother!” Jolene continued to hang on, her toes shuffling, dragging through the dirt.

“Ow, ow, ow,” Jared was howling as the three tangled along.

“Jolene, get to your room, I’ll deal with you later. Right now, your brother has a well deserved switching coming!”

“But—I – d-d-didn’t do anything!” Jared protested again between howls.

Finally Charity let go of his ear, thrust Jolene away and grabbed the bundle of birch switches leaning against the clapboards of the house. Jolene landed hard on her bottom on the dirt, and winced. Her tailbone had taken a direct hit.

Now Charity had a hold of Jared’s upper arm with her left hand, and the bundle of switches in her right hand. She was going to town, as father liked to say, those switches thwack thwack thwacking across poor Jared’s tender bottom. He only had light muslin breeches on, and Jolene could only image how his bottom was singing under the assault. She started to scramble to her feet again. She could hear the violent swishing as the branches sliced through the air, then landed hard on her brother. She could feel the force of the wind toss her hair as she approached. Her brother’s howls could probably be heard all the way to the Wilke’s farm in the next county! She ran for her mother again and grabbed on to her arm mid swing. But Jolene was just a little slip of a girl – always small for her age. And a five year old has nothing on a grown woman. The force of Charity’s arm continued to come down hard, advancing toward Jared’ backside yet again. But the hesitation, the obstacle of Jolene latching onto Charity’s arm had distracted her just enough, slowed her down just enough so that Jared had a chance to wrench his way free from the onslaught. He wiggled and squirm while Charity’s attention was on the little hellion attached to her arm. He had no sooner wrenched free of her grasp that he took off at break neck pace for the stables, where he knew his father would be working with the horses. As soon as Jolene saw that Jared was free, she let go of Charity’s swinging arm and followed Jared out of the yard. She could hear her mother screaming bloody murder all the way to the stables, but she knew her mother would not follow. Despite the vim and vigor displayed by Charity’s beating, Charity didn’t have much energy. Father said it was the result of Jolene’s difficult birth. Jolene had always felt guilty about that, like her mother’s weak constitution was somehow her fault. But for once she was glad of it. She knew her mother wouldn’t chase them.

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.

Bloomers! #NANWRIMO Day 19 :)

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I’ve been having a lot of thoughts today that most of you have already had.  Most of my thoughts centered around the idea that its hard to write on this schedule (no kidding) instead of just writing when you feel inspired.  However, I think if I waited around to write only when I was inspired, I would probably not get anything written — owing to the fact that usually my inspiration strikes in the middle of the night (in dreams I probably won’t remember) or while I’m driving, or while I’m out to dinner — none of which are great places to bust out the laptop and capture the moment.

So back to writing on this nanowrimo schedule… I kind of feel like my tank is dry.  I read a blog post the other day where the Wrimo’er basically shared that they had hit that point in nanwrimo where they had executed all of the writing for the stuff they had planned, and now had resorted to full-fledged pantsing.  I feel like I’m at that point.

So what to do?  Just keep writing even though it feels totally lame, just to garner that proverbial “win”?  Your thoughts are much appreciated here.

As far as my thoughts go — I’m leaning toward going for the finish line.  Simply because I want all of the nanowrimo badges (shallow I know), but also because perhaps in all the dross my fingers pound out there will be one or two things I can use when I make good on my revision pledge (gotta get that badge too you know.).

So tonight, I wrote an impromptu scene about women’s fashion and… BLOOMERS.  Do you guys know about bloomers?  They were kind of a thing in 1849.  And even though my novel is set in 1854, I figured hey — bloomers could still be a thing. 🙂

Enjoy.

Today’s ending word count 32,057 — I’m getting there folks!

***McKendrick Saga Excerpt – Nanwrimo Day 19 *****

Jo threw herself upon Lu’s bed with utter abandon.  She couldn’t possibly be more grateful to have an outing come to an end.  Not that she didn’t like shopping, because she did.  Who didn’t like to get something new or different?  It was clothes shopping that she objected to.  Women’s clothes had to be the most frivolous, most useless things in the whole world, Jo thought.

“Jo, really.  Why do you have to look so miserable? It’s not as if you’ve just came from a funeral” Lu said, teasing her friend.

“It most certainly was a funeral,” Jo argued,  “A funeral for my freedom.  For my liberty.  For my days of having a say in my own life!  Time to be reborn as Charity McKendrick’s debutante daughter and land a rich and socially prominent husband!” Jo said without irony.

“Its not as bad as all that,” Lucinda encouraged.  “At least the dress was beautiful. You’ll no doubt be the very talk of the fair.”  Lu looked at the window dreamily, as if she were reliving the scene at the modiste.  She hugged her arms to herself, as if shy, bent a dainty curtsey to an invisible dance partner, then began whirling her way around the room.

Jo watched her pretty friend and sighed.  Lucinda was beautiful.  She had dark brown hair, almost black, with large, soft, warm brown eyes.  They were fringed with the longest, thickest black lashes that Jo had ever seen.  And whenever Lu chose to bat those lashes, which was quite often, she was quite irresistible.  Though not wholly irresistible, Jo thought.  Lu had certain amorous feelings for their mutual friend Calvin, though she would never admit it.  It was easy enough to see, the way she behaved around him, all smiles, and blushes, and flutters.  Sometimes Lu’s methods were so painfully obvious that Jo had to stifle a laugh or two of her own.  But so far as Jo could tell, Calvin had remained oblivious to Lu’s overtures, or he simply ignored them.  Jo wasn’t entirely sure which.

“I can’t wait for the fair.  Mother said there will be a thirty piece orchestrate there, and that they will have all the latest tunes to play.”  Lucinda continued her twirling and talking, “ I hope Calvin is there,” she said dreamily, and then quickly went on lest she reveal too much of her actual feelings, “oh and Jonathan of course, and Henry, and Carlisle, and…”

Jo burst out laughing, “do you mean to seduce them all?”

“Well, it can’t hurt.” Lu said playfully.  “Father says never to put all of your eggs in one basket.”

“Well I could care less about who is there.  I just pray that the evening passes quickly.” Jo drifted over toward Lucinda’s vanity where several circulars and periodicals were arranged in neat little piles.  Most of them appeared to be the latest fashion circulars, of which Lu was an avid reader. Jo flipped through the pages testily. Each page revealed another frothy creation that was no doubt designed to exhibit its wearer’s feminine assets to great effect.

“Just what is the purpose of all this anyway, Lu?”  Jo asked sincerely.  “Is there any practicality at all to it?  Did someone, somewhere, at one point think, young ladies need bigger bottoms, so lets make a bustle!”

Lucinda giggled at Jo’s plain speaking, but attempted an honest answer, “Women’s clothing isn’t about being practical, its about being pretty – pretty enough to turn a man’s head.  At least that’s what my father says.”

“Bah! What do I care if I turn a man’s head?  A woman can barely turn herself in some of these contraptions!” Jo tapped an angry finger on a full page illustration of the latest corset and spring-steel hooped frames. “I mean just look at this?  It’s already impossible to get through the doors with the piles of petticoats, hoops, and fabric that we are expected to wear, and they now propose to clad us in this? Surely all of Boston will have to be rebuilt to simply accommodate the passage of ladies through the doorways,” Jo snorted.

Lu looked at the illustration causing Jo so much consternation and said, “I should be happy to wear it. Just imagine how it would sway and sashay as I move across the ballroom floor.  I should be a vision, I think!”

“Be serious Lu.  You can not possibly see this as a practical garment.” Jo insisted.  Lu loved pretty clothes, loved feeling pretty in them.  Jo understood this.  But even Lu had to admit that none of it served any functional purpose.  Not like the clothing men wore.  Jo thought about the way she dressed whenever on an adventure with Calvin: strong sturdy breeches, the kind that didn’t wear out from too much horse riding, or scraping against the rough bark of a tree when climbing.  She thought of how easy it was to breathe whenever she wore her brother’s old shirts, and even though she bound her chest to ensure the boyish effect, air still flowed freely in and out of her lungs.  Why would any woman, if given the choice, choose to wear a painful corset that made it so difficult to breathe that one was in constant danger of passing out?  Jo would never know.

“Perhaps if you are so insistent upon wearing practical ladies clothes, you should take a look at this,” Lu said as she opened a different circular to reveal another illustration.

Jo studied the illustration as one would an exotic animal.  Never before had she seen such an ensemble as displayed before her on this page.  The lady in the illustration sported a relatively loose fitting top bound by a narrow belt at the waist, a shortened skirt that fell only just below the knee, and under all that, a pair of the strangest trousers that Jo had ever seen, cinched in tight at the lady’s ankles.

“What in the world is this?”  Jo said, not without a little awe.

“That, dear Jo, is an illustration of Amelia Jenks Bloomer, noted suffragette and reluctant fashioniste,” Lu took in the surprise and delight on Jo’s face and couldn’t help but laugh. “See something you like?”

Jo saw many things she liked. Her mind raced, thinking of all the things that would be possible in such an outfit.  The short skirt and pants would no doubt make riding astride that much easier.  There were no hoops, at least not as Jo could determine, which would certainly make walking, sitting, just plain living a breeze.  And the top…  Jo looked closer at the image, and gasped.

“She’s not wearing a corset!” Jo exclaimed with wonder.

“Of course not,” Lu said smartly. “You said you wanted practicality.”

“What are these called?” Jo said, pointing at the trouser like undergarments, “And is this allowed?  For her to show her undergarments like this?”

“They aren’t undergarments silly,” Lu giggled again, “they’re bloomers.”

“Bloomers?” Jo asked curiously, “But isn’t that her name?”

“Yes but people have taken to calling them Bloomers, after her. She wore them to the Seneca Falls convention.  She’s a suffragette.” Lu’s voice dropped to a whisper on the last word.

“A suffragette!” Jo exclaimed, with Lu shushing her immediately.

“Jo!  Do be quiet!” Lu whisper yelled.  “My father absolutely forbids any talk of suffrage in the house.”

“Then where did you get this magazine?” Jo asked pointedly.

Lu hemmed and hawed.  “I borrowed it from Ms. Johnson’s last time we were there for the sewing circle.”

Contrary to the name, a sewing circle was not primarily for the purpose of sewing.  The sewing circles of Boston (and elsewhere) were covers for women’s abolitionist fundraising and petitioning efforts.  Lucinda’s mother was very “involved” in several sewing circles, though her main concern was abolition and not suffrage, even though the two often went hand in hand.  Mrs. Johnson, on the other hand, was an ardent supporter of the suffragist cause, and was even close friends with Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

“Borrowed huh?” Jo said thoughtfully.  Lu had a bad habit of borrowing a lot of things that weren’t hers.  It was a problem to be sure, but for once Jo was ecstatic that Lu had a borrowing problem.

Jo folded the book closed and studied the cover of “The Lily”.  “Hmmmm, published by the Ladies Temperance Society.  But they’re teetotalers, not suffragists. That doesn’t seem like suffrage propaganda.” Jo asked.

“Well I think it started as a magazine devoted to temperance, but includes articles of interest to those ladies with suffragist leanings. At least that’s what I overheard Mrs. Johnson saying to Mrs. Wright at the meeting,” Lu said slyly.

“Eavesdropping too? My goodness Lu, we have been busy.” Jo tsked, raising her eyebrow in mock rebuke.

Jo flipped back to the illustration of Amelia Bloomer.  The caption read Mrs. Amelia Bloomer turns heads with outrageous ensemble at the Seneca Falls Women’s Convention. “Outrageous huh?  Looks pretty practical to me.”  Jo had a speculative look on her face.

“Perhaps you can get Dorothea to make you some,” Lu suggested helpfully.

“Indeed,”  Jo said thoughtfully, “but the question is, can she do it in time for the fair?”

Finally on Track. #Nanowrimo Day 18 – Word Count 30,520

I’m finally ahead again for the first time since the beginning of the month.  I wrote a good amount tonight, most of it crap – I’ll admit it.  But, I did get one scene that I’m happy enough to share.  YAY! 🙂  (I thought I wasn’t going to be able to share anything tonight because it was all crap, but then this happened…)

This scene occurs after a very eventful day — full of chases, brawls, kidnappings, hiding in closets (and a first kiss if you read yesterday’s excerpt), a visit to a house of ill repute, and a tavern …. all of which resulted in a number of injuries to our intrepid heroine (Jo) and her trusty sidekick (Cal).  Even worse, they parted ways on the heels of a fight during which Cal told Jo to act more like a lady, and Jo told Cal to go court Lucinda if he wants a lady.  It wasn’t pretty.

In this excerpt, Jo is being brought to the Ellis home (Cal’s home) for medical care – by Cal’s older brother Robert.  Robert does have a small history with Jo, since he’s her brothers friend, and was her escort to what amounted to the 1850s version of her “coming out” ball.  Cal and Robert have a close relationship, but its put to the test in this scene…

***McKendrick Saga Excerpt – Nanowrimo Day 18 *****

Robert kicked open the door to the study, using his back to hold it while he maneuvered a sleeping Jo through the doorway.  Calvin was already on the couch, Doctor Sams wrapping his bare torso tightly.

“Broken ribs, huh?” Robert said, his tone ironic.

Cal gave his brother an annoyed look, until he noticed who Robert held in his arms.  He tried to jump to his feet, but his sore ribs immediately forced him down again.

“I told you son, you’ve got to stay still for the next few days so these ribs can heal.  You’re going to be in some pain for quite a while.”  Dr. Sams gave Cal a disappointed look, as if he couldn’t believe that Cal would be stupid enough to get into a fight with two men twice his size.  He didn’t know the half of it.

Cal looked at Robert, his face a mask of worry and panic.  He could see that it was Jo, but he had no idea if she was ok, or how she’d come to be with his brother.

“Is she ok?  I mean – what happened?  How did you —“  he said

“Hold up there little brother, one question at a time,” Robert smiled patiently, carrying Jo to the other settee.  He bent over to put her down, but in her sleep she reached out for him again, tangling her arms around his neck.  Calvin frowned, feeling annoyed, though he couldn’t pin point why exactly.  Robert worked to free himself from Jo, but her hands kept reaching for him, for the safety that his embrace represented to her sleeping self.  Finally Robert gave up and just sat on the settee, Jo curled like an injured kitten in his lap.

“She looks fine enough, I’m sure she doesn’t need you fawning all over her.” Cal said irritably.  “She wouldn’t like it anyway.  If theres one thing Jo hates, it’s people thinking she’s helpless.”

Robert raised an eyebrow and gave his young brother a speculative look.  “Is that so?  Well it so happens that Jo is not ok, but with Dr. Sams ministrations I daresay she’ll pull through like the champ that she is.”  Robert looked admiringly at the small girl sleeping in his arms. Her strength and tenacity had impressed him far more than her pretty little show at the fair.  He decided he like this Jo, the real Jo, much better than Jolene the debutante.  He took the cap gently from her head, so as not to wake her, and began running his fingers over her face, skull, and through her hair – some of which was crusted over now with dried blood.

“What are you doing?” Cal demanded, ‘You can’t just go touching her like that!  Not while she— while she — she’s in such a vulnerable position!”

Aside from a slight smirk, Robert just ignored Cal and continued his examination.  Like most siblings he enjoyed tormenting his younger brother.  But, he had a more noble purpose in mind; he wanted to better know the extent of her injuries.

“Dr. Sams, I believe the young lady may have a broken nose. Her eye socket seems in tact, though its hard to tell with all this swelling.” Robert said, his voice clinical now.  Cal remembered that Robert had been a medical student at Harvard before switching over to the law, but it galled him to see Robert touching Jo so liberally.  “And, she seems to have a rather deep cut on the left side of her scalp.”

Dr. Sams nodded, removing various and sundry items from his medical bag.  He wet a cloth with some noxious liquid and smeared it over her cuts and bruises.  “Might be that some of this hair needs to come off,” Dr. Sams said, gesturing to the area where Jo’s head was cut.

“You’ll do no such thing!” Cal shouted, standing up despite the pain in his ribs. “Jo wouldn’t want it I tell you!  She wouldn’t let you near her with a ten foot pole!”

“Easy, easy,” Robert said, giving Cal a disapproving look. “What’s gotten into you Cal? No one is going to cut her hair, no one is going to hurt her.  Now sit down and rest like the doctor said.  I’ll make sure she’s ok.”

“Well, I don’t think there is a need for you to be so… handsy about it!” Cal accused.

“Handsy?  I’m not being Handsy little brother, I’m examining the patient.” Robert reassured him.  “That being said, I believe Dr. Sams can take it from here.”

Jo had slipped back into deep sleep and Robert was able to easily remove her arms from around his neck.  He laid her gently back onto the settee, using a blanket to cover her.  He again smoothed her abundant riotous curls away from her face to ensure no impediment to Dr. Sams’ work.

Cal snorted and turned to sit back down.  He kicked the empty water bucket in his frustration.

Robert’s look turned from speculative to knowing.  You love her, Robert thought, taking in his brothers behavior.  Poor sot.  Loving any girl was a challenge at best, but loving a girl like Jo?  Good luck with that, he thought.  Robert fancied Jo himself, but at the present moment he considered her too young for him.  She was sixteen and only just.  Perhaps in a few years she might interest him in a serious way.  For now she was simply his best friend’s pretty young sister.  But to Cal?  He understood now.  Jo was Cal’s first love.  How glorious.  How painful.  He didn’t envy his young brother one bit.  He was in for a rocky ride with this filly.