Google+ The Bluestocking Firefly: September 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

English and Ella

There's really nothing in the States that compares to the UK institution known as the pub. The closest you could really get would be if you took a diner (you know, the sort of mom-and-pop 1950s diner with the checked tablecloths and those pastel-green walls and old album covers hung up everywhere) and a bar and they had a bad transporter accident. Or if they had a baby. The result might look something like a pub. Maybe.

Castles are another beautifully European thing (though not confined to the UK, by any means), and I happen to have one almost out my back door. It's a bit dilapidated, but it's still a castle. On a cliff. By the sea. I have a castle. That's kind of nifty. Now if I can only get it in miniature and stick one in my backyard...

In all seriousness, for such a little place, St Andrews is really lovely. It's on a very pretty bit of coastline, has its own castle and cathedral that was largely pulled down during the Reformation, lots of lovely old buildings, and some ridiculous number of coffee shops. I, alas, do not live in one of the lovely old buildings (I live in a concrete bunker, but at least while I'm inside it I don't have to look at it!), but never mind. I'm quite keen on this whole living on the coast business. I went for a walk the other morning as the sun was rising and nearly got blinded by the light off the water. I suppose it wouldn't be quite the thing to lose my eyesight before I even have my first class...oh well, never mind!

I thought I'd put up a bit more of Ella, continuing on from where the last bit ended. :)

Ella (Prologue), cont.

Princess Eleonora was in the middle of an Atlaian lesson, but instead of practising declining verbs, she was drawing flowers. Her language tutor was, as usual, flirting with one of the maids, so she was free to do as she pleased. Which, for the moment, meant sketching flowers. Badly. Her drawing tutor tended to neglect her studies nearly as much as her language tutor, which meant her skills were progressing...slowly. But she preferred flowers to verbs, and so until her tutor noticed, she intended to draw.

Until she spotted Ahlstad standing in the doorway.

Ella guiltily shoved her flower-covered paper beneath her Atlaian book and pretended to be absorbed in the verb tables. Marie Ahlstad made her nervous. She had heard somewhere that plump people were supposed to be cheerful, but she had yet to see any evidence of that in Mme. Ahlstad. She was the sternest short, plump, and spectacled personage Ella had ever encountered in her seven and a half years of life, and Ella lived in fear of putting a foot wrong in front of her. One look from Mme. Ahlstad was punishment enough for poor behaviour.

"Your Highness," Ahlstad said. She chose Etoinaise today. With an Etoinaise mother and a Stjaran father, Ella had grown up speaking both languages, and with her parents it was always simple to determine which language she would be speaking. But with Mme. Ahlstad, Ella was often uncertain until the words came out of her mouth.

"Mme. Ahlstad," Ella replied, pushing her hair out of her face.

"Your mother wishes to see you," Ahlstad said. "If you would please come with me?"

With a quick glance at her tutor, who had at some point noticed Ahlstad's presence and had abandoned his attempts at winning over the maid, Ella hastened after Ahlstad.

Ahlstad left Ella at her mother's rooms, and Ella cautiously entered. She didn't see a great deal of either of her parents, but of the two she saw her mother the most. And of the two, she preferred her mother. Her father was a strange creature - he was a man she saw almost always from a distance, a man she found strange, cold, and unfeeling, and with whom she had nearly no relationship. Her mother, beautiful and perfect, Ella was at least positive loved her.

Roselle lifted her head from the back of the chaise lounge as Ella came further into the room, and smiled. "There you are, my darling," she said, holding out a hand. "Come here."

Ella went to her mother and took her hand. "You wished to see me, Mamma?"

"Come, sit beside me," Roselle said. "I know it's a bit hard, but I think there's room enough, don't you?"

Pleased by the invitation, Ella squished onto the chaise lounge beside her mother. It was so rare that she saw her mother that what little time she had with her was always a treat. "Why did you want to see me, Mamma?"

The Queen studied her daughter. "I didn't have a real reason, you know," she said, keeping her voice light. "I wished to see my daughter. You're growing up so quickly, Ella." She smiled. "And you're such a pretty child."

"The maids say I look like you," Ella said, and then added eagerly, "Is that true? Do I look like you? I should like very much to look like you."

Roselle laughed. "I think you will look very much like me as you grow older. That will be a fine thing, don't you think? If we two look very much the same?" She hesitated, and then said, "Now...I must ask you a question, and I am certain you have already thought about it, at least a little. How do you feel about having a little brother or sister?"

"I do not know," Ella said, her face scrunching up in thought. "The maids say if it is a little brother, then he will be king one day. That means I will not be queen. Is that true, Mamma? Will I not be queen?"

The Queen picked up Ella's hand and kissed it. "If it is a little brother, then he will be king, my dear." She held Ella's hand for a moment longer, and then squeezed it tightly, a sad look in her eyes. "But I fear that you will be queen one day nevertheless, little one." She brushed a finger across Ella's forehead, smoothing out the lines of concern across her face, and tapped her daughter's nose. The pain that rippled across her stomach took her by surprise. It was too soon. Putting a smile on her face, she met her daughter's eyes. "Now, I am tired, Ella, and I must rest. You will ask Mme. Ahlstad to attend me, and to send for my physician?"

"Are you unwell, Mamma?" Ella asked, sliding off the chaise lounge.

"Only a little, Ella," she replied, fighting off another wave of pain. "I love you, my darling."

Ella looked back at her mother. "I love you as well, Mamma."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Through the Door and St Andrews

So I'm properly across the pond now, and when I walk out the door and down the street it's not the Pacific Ocean I see. It's not even the Atlantic Ocean. It's the North Sea.

I feel vaguely as though I should say things about the trip over and the drive up, but that all seems a bit dull, so suffice to say that it happened and term starts in a week. I meet the rest of the students on my course (and the supervisor) tomorrow, so hopefully that goes well. I'm sure it shall and we shall all get on swimmingly. :)

In the meantime, this is a piece I wrote originally in my senior high school creative writing class, and that I have poked and prodded at since then. My mother is particularly fond of it. :)

Through the Door

The clang of a distant door rings through the stone halls, a cold sound in a cold place. Piotr's eyes flicker open; he raises his head from his knees, grey eyes searching the featureless room.

Another one dead, he thinks, and a shadow passes briefly across his face. One more death amounts to nothing beside those of the past. To live just that little while longer, to be given that hope is almost too much to bear, crueller even than the prospect of dying. To live is to live a life haunted by death. But to die - to die is a godsend.

As Piotr shakes away the thoughts that filigree his mind like spider webs, a tangled strand of hair falls in front of his eyes. He does not brush it away. It is an annoyance, no more, and far too trivial a thing to waste his energy on.

A cloud of white drifts from his mouth as he exhales, the moisture freezing instantaneously into tiny, perfect crystals, one small thing of beauty in a frigid hell. He sits with his back against rimed stone, forearms pressed against threadbare knees. A rattling cough issues from his throat, and crimson beads fleck his tattered sleeves, joining the dark dried drops already dotting them. He is already dead, so this does not concern him; his life ended the day the doors closed on him.

Footsteps echo down the corridor outside Piotr's room, the heavy tread of a guard. The faint jingle of keys accompanies the footsteps, a weak soprano beside an overpowering bass. Piotr waits until a pair of emotionless eyes peers through the grate in the door, and then he smiles. Without a sound, the eyes withdraw from the barred window, unnerved by the scarlet leer, and the footsteps resume, gradually fading away.

Another cough wracks Piotr's frail body, leaving him limp with exhaustion. He drags the back of a hand across his face, streaking violent red over his pale cheek to his ear. His hand brushes against cold metal, and he pauses. He fingers the hoop for a moment, and then removes it. The earring gleams dull gold against the white of his palm. It recalls memories of a time long gone, of men long dead. Pale fingers close about the hoop, blotting it from sight. It is a thing of the past.