Google+ The Bluestocking Firefly: January 2011
Google+

Friday, January 21, 2011

Spence II

Next section of Darrington. Not real thrilled with this part, but whatever. I'll get back to it eventually and make it better. These days I'm more interested in production and finishing things, because I have a tendency to start things and then I either abandon them or else get caught up in rewriting what I have and never get past the first part of the story. I can always go back later and fix things. (The reverse Cinderella story has a massive number of problems in the middle of it, but I'm working on finishing the darn thing before I think too much about them...)

This picks up right after the last part ended. You can find the rest of Spence here.

Music:
"Golden Rule" by Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials
"Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult



“Well, hell, Spence, what are you doing back in this neck of the woods?” he demanded. “And what in the devil’s name are you doing with Faye Spencer’s license? You know those kind of people take that kind of thing real serious,” he said, his face sober.

“No, Jim, that—that’s my license,” Faye said. “That’s me. I’m Faye Spencer. I changed my name.”

He whistled. “Well, shit!” he exclaimed. “So that’s what you’ve been doing!”

She kept the smile on her face through sheer force of will and nodded. “Yep. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

Jim leaned against the side of the truck and Faye sighed. Good old dependable, thick-as-log Jim. Couldn’t take a hint if it hit him over the head. No wonder he’d gone into law enforcement.

“So what are you doing back here?” he asked. “We all heard about Sarah. I’m real sorry, Spence. We’ll all miss her.”

Faye made sharp dismissive gesture. “I’d rather not talk about it, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course, of course,” he said understandingly. “It must have been an awful shock for you. If there’s anything we can do—”

“Jim. I don’t wanna talk about it.”

“Right. Sorry.” He fell silent, and then after a moment he said, “So what are you doing back here? Not that I ain’t glad to see you, but you gotta admit, Spence, no one’s seen you around here for years.”

“Sarah left me her house,” Fay said shortly. “I’ve come up to look at it.” She tapped her hands together and looked up at him from beneath her lashes, resting her chin on her fist. “I was on my way there, so if I could keep going that’d be great.”

Jim looked serious. “There’s still the fact that you were speeding, Spence, and I gotta deal with it—”

“Jim,” Faye said, laying a hand on his sleeve, “look. I’ve been under a lot of emotional stress lately, and I’m not thinking very clearly. I was just focusing on getting here and I wasn’t paying attention to how fast I was driving. Can we just…forget about it? I can
promise you it won’t happen again.”

Jim hesitated. Faye stroked his sleeve and smiled up at him, and she could see him giving in.

“All right,” he said at last. “But just this once,” he warned, pointing his finger at her. “Just because you’re some famous woman don’t give you the right to go zipping through here as fast as you like. It’s dangerous.”

“Duly noted,” Faye said, throttling her temper. “Can I go now?”

He sighed and handed back her license and registration. “Stick to the speed limit from now on, Spence. If I pull you over again, I’m sticking you with a ticket, and I don’t care how much emotional stress you’ve been under. I don’t care if you
cry, you’re still getting a ticket.”

“Got it,” Faye said. “Now, can I go?”

“Yeah. Get out of here.” He grinned. “See you around, Spence.”

She slammed the door and pulled back onto the road, waving back at him out the window. Once he was out of sight, she let herself relax, feeling the tell-tale pain at the back of her head that heralded a migraine. She’d hoped to be able to get into town and settled into her Aunt Sarah’s house—her house, she thought—without running into anyone she knew. Now that she’d encountered Jim, the fact that she was back would be all over town by morning.

Driving on auto-pilot, she made her way through the outskirts of town, drove up Seeman Street, and pulled into the parking lot for the Darrington Iga. The stop at the convenience store earlier had mostly been for the booze; she hadn’t really wanted her first stop at the Darrington Iga to involve a basket full of beer. The last thing she needed was a town full of well-meaning people thinking she was an alkie.

“Stay put, Barney,” she said, cracking the window for him. She grabbed her wallet out of the glovebox and slid out of the truck. “I’ll be back soon.”

Faye walked into the store and stopped just inside, letting the cold air wash over her. It was a shock after the outside heat. She didn’t remember the summers being this hot when she was younger, but then when she was younger she’d spent a lot of time in the river. And then there was global warming. Maybe that shit had more to it than she’d thought.

The store had been remodeled since the last time she’d been here; not surprising, since it had probably been fourteen years. She stuck her hands in her pockets and headed into the bakery, following the smell of bread.

Two aisles and half a basket later, she stood staring at the frozen dinners, trying to decide between lasagna and pizza and finally tossing one of each into the basket, when an excited, high-pitched voice squealed,

“Oh, my god, you’re Faye Spencer!”

Faye continued to stare at the frozen foods, finally plucking some kind of Mexican dish that seemed to have dancing chilies all over the box off the shelf before turning to face a teenage girl, who was staring at her with wide eyes. “Did you want something?” she demanded.

“Oh, my god,” the girl said again. “I recognized you from the picture on the back of your books. You’re, like, amazing. I’ve read all of your books.”

Faye brushed past her, wishing yet again she’d been able to convince her agent that that picture had been a bad idea. She had never liked the fact it had thrust her in to the public eye in the first place, and after recent events— She shook herself out of the past and found that the girl was keeping pace with her. “For Christ’s sake, stop following me,” she snapped.

“What are you doing in Darrington?” the girl asked eagerly. “Are you here on, like, a book signing? Only we never get anything interesting like that. We always have to go to Everett or Bellingham or Seattle.” The girl’s voice got progressively higher at the end of each sentence as she got more and more excited.

Faye pressed her fingers against her temple, willing her head to stop hurting. “If I tell you, will you go away?”

“Okay!”

“I’m living here.”

“Omigod! That’s so awesome!” the girl squealed, following Faye as she turned into the next aisle and tipped several boxes of Kix into her basket. “Where are you living? Are you going to—”

Faye rounded on the girl. “Seriously, fuck off,” she said. “I am not in the mood to deal with overenthusiastic fans, and unless you want me to clock you one, get out of my face.” She looked down at her basket, decided she had enough food for now, and headed for checkout. The girl stayed behind, her face crestfallen, her eyes welling up with tears.

“Wow, you must really like Kix,” the clerk said as he bagged her groceries.

“Can’t stand it,” Faye said as she picked up the bags and headed for the door.


Previous: Spence
Next: Spence III

Rebecca, again

Another snippet from the reverse Cinderella story. This excerpt is taken from the middle of the story, after El finds his father and disappears with him; Rebecca is attempting to tracking them down by finding the sorcerers who were at her birthday parties. This leads her to Lady Murray, the wife of one of the three sorcerers.


The carriage rumbled to a halt and Rebecca peered out the window. “Ah, we must have arrived at Lord Murray’s. Come along, Betsy.” She climbed down from the carriage and shook out her skirts.

The butler who opened the door betrayed no surprise at finding them on the doorstep other than a slight tightening around his eyes. “May I help you?” he inquired.

Rebecca held out her card. “Please give this to Lady Murray, and inform her that it is quite urgent I see her, if you would.”

The butler took the card and glanced at it. “Would you care to wait in the Pink Drawing Room while I see if Lady Murray is at home?”

“Yes, thank you,” Rebecca said, and followed him down the hall and into a room that was decorated in green. She mentally sighed. She had never understood the practice of decorating a room in one colour and then calling it by a different one. She smiled at the butler and seated herself on a settee.

“I will go see if Lady Murray is at home,” the butler said, and bowed his way out.

Rebecca placed her reticule in her lap and clasped her hands over it. “Oh, don’t look at me in that disapproving way, Betsy,” she said cheerfully. “I know you’re getting quite a thrill out of this, or else you wouldn’t have got quite as much information about these men as you did. I begin to suspect you have quite the unexpected spark of adventure in you.”

Betsy was saved from having to respond by the entrance of Lady Murray, whose appearance took them both by surprise. Rebecca wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting, but it wasn’t this tiny, bird-like woman with the dark eyes and fine hair. She’d somehow imagined that the wife of a sorcerer would be more…powerful.

“Miss St. Claire,” said Lady Murray. “I must confess that your visit comes as something of a surprise, as I have never made your acquaintance, and I understand it was your father, Lord St. Claire, who arranged for my husband’s participation at your parties. I am hardly one to dismiss any opportunity to expand my circle of acquaintance, but I must question why you have come calling.”

Rebecca rose from her seat. “I apologise for intruding upon your home in this fashion, Lady Murray,” she said. “I would not have come unless it was urgent.”

Lady Murray somehow contrived to appear as though she were looking down her nose, despite the fact that she was considerably shorter than Rebecca. “I am listening.”

“I am looking for someone, and I believe your husband can help me.” She saw the expression of disbelief on Lady Murray’s face, and hastened to add, “Please, let me say again that I would not ask unless it was important. There is a young man—” She hesitated. “There is a young man I met when I was very young, and he was at the parties. I have reason to believe that his father is one of the three sorcerers who were there, and it is very important that I find him.” She blinked back tears. “I cannot express how important it is.”

Lady Murray gazed at Rebecca for a moment, her expression unreadable. After a moment she said, “I do not think my husband will be able to help you.”

“Oh,” Rebecca said, her shoulders slumping.

“Chin up, my girl,” Lady Murray said briskly, “or I shan’t help you either. If there is one thing I detest, it is lack of backbone.”

Rebecca lifted her head. “I beg your pardon?”

“I said my husband wpuld not be able to help you. Lord Murray left the city this morning and I do not anticipate his return for several days. However, I expect I should be able to provide you all the assistance you require.”

“Why?”

“My dear girl, I’m certain someone taught you to speak in full sentences. Kindly utilise that skill.”

Rebecca hid a smile. “I apologise, my lady. I mean, why do you wish to help me? You only just met me.”

“I met that boy of Edward’s — Edward Russell, Lord Ashwood, as I’m certain you’re aware by now — last night at your party, while he was masquerading as that prince. He might have been fooling everyone with only half a brain in their heads, but anyone who knows Edward saw right off how it was. They look too much alike for the resemblance to pass unnoticed. And any fool could see the young man was besotted with you.”

Rebecca stared at Lady Murray. “I apologise, my lady,” she said after a moment. “I misjudged you.”

Lady Murray smiled slightly. “You are not the first to have done so,” she said. “Now. You will forgive my directness, but if you wish for my help then I have no desire to shy around the real issues. Unless I am much mistaken, your father intends for you to marry your cousin, the Earl of Shoreham.” Rebecca flinched, and Lady Murray nodded. “I thought as much. It’s a ridiculous match. Your father never did have much sense. My mother would have very much liked me to marry him when I was just out of the schoolroom, but thankfully I had considerably more sense than
your mother, although I will confess she seems happy enough, though that perhaps has more to do with the lack of intelligent thought in her head than anything else.”

Rebecca realised her mouth was open and shut it.

“I apologise,” Lady Murray said, not sounding in the least bit sorry. “But I somehow suspect you have thought the same thing many times yourself.”

“Lady Murray—”

“Yes?”

“Oh,
why have I never met you before now?” Rebecca blurted out.

“There is a reason for all things, my dear. Now. This young man of yours—”

“El.”

Lady Murray’s eyebrows shot up. “Good heavens, what a name. El. Presumably he has gone to live with Edward. I assume propriety has kept you from calling upon him.”

“Yes…”

“But it would not have if I had proved unhelpful,” Lady Murray said, smiling. “Oh, you are a bold girl. I cannot say I commend you, but I do like your spirit. However, I do not think I can allow you to commit yourself to social ruin quite yet. I have a better idea. Come along, dear. We’ll go in my carriage. Your maid may stay here. We shan’t have need of her — I think my companionship will be chaperonage enough.”

Rebecca trailed after her ladyship, utterly confused. “Do you mean to accompany me to Lord Ashwood’s?” she asked.

“No, Miss St. Claire, I mean for
you to accompany me.”

“But how does that solve anything?” Rebecca demanded. “Ladies are still not permitted to call upon bachelors, regardless of if they are married or not. It’s not done. And besides, El’s letter said they had left town.”

“Ah, but fortunately relatives
are allowed to call on bachelors,” Lady Murray said cheerfully, climbing into the carriage and settling herself on the seat. Rebecca followed and sat across from her, and found herself the target of an unsettling gaze. “Did you say El’s letter? The two of you are exchanging letters?”

“Oh! No!” Rebecca blushed. “No, no, he just—he left me a letter with his master to that explained — badly — and that told me to forget him and move on. We haven’t been exchanging letters, I promise!”

“Good. That would not be at all the thing, you know.” Lady Murray tapped a finger against her cheek. “As for the other…well, if they are out of town, we may be able to find out where they have gone and when they may return. Edward’s servants are familiar with me, and they may be willing to tell me.” She glanced across at Rebecca. “It is unlikely they would have revealed anything to you.”

“You — you said you were a relation of Lord Ashwood’s?” Rebecca said shyly.

“We’re cousins,” Lady Murray said. “Our mothers were sisters. We were very close when we were younger. I met my husband through Edward.” She smiled, lost in memory, and Rebecca looked out the window at the passing houses.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Spence

New story, inspired by the image that came to me one day of a woman driving a pick-up down a lonely road with a dog in the back of the cab and music blasting. I was originally going to set the story somewhere like Arizona or New Mexico, but I've been working on writing in locales with which I'm more familiar. I've never actually been to Darrington, but at least I know the general location. Trees, mountains, etc. The pick-up and the dog - the clearest part of that image - stuck around. The dog's name - Barney - came before the woman's name, and even her name turned out not to be her real name. The world of writing is a strange place sometimes...

Historically, I haven't written a lot of straight-up fiction. I'm more of a fiction with a fantasy-slant kind of girl. Or straight-up fantasy. Occasionally I'll toy with science-fiction. If I'm feeling in the mood for fiction, it tends to run along the lines of historical fiction, usually somewhere in the period of the Regency. This whole concept of writing fiction that's set in the present is a straaaaange thing. I'm working on it. Not sure how I feel about it yet. I'll let you know.

In case you're interested, the short piece "Funeral", which is posted on my blog here, is the prologue to this story. You can find the rest of this story here.

Music:
"Back in Black" by AC/DC
"Highway to Hell" by AC/DC
"Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
"Mama Do" by Pixie Lott


The ’92 Ford pickup flew down WA-530, going about seventy-five, and then abruptly slowed with a squeal of the brakes, spinning to the left and pulling into the parking lot of the Trafton General Store. The driver swung out of the cab, a frown on her face, and tilted the seat forward. A rangy yellow mutt bounded out of the truck and across the road. The driver watched him go and then slammed the door, causing a few flakes of rusted paint to drift to the hot asphalt.

“Jesus, lady,” said the man parked next to her. “You having a bad day?”

She pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head and hooked her thumbs in her belt loops. “Long drive,” she said, glancing briefly at the man.

“Can’t have been that long,” he said. “You must have been doing seventy.”

She met his gaze with a contemptuous look. “Fuck off,” she said, and headed into the convenience store.

The clerk leaned on the counter and watched her ass as she wandered up and down the aisles, a grin on his face. It didn’t take long before she arrived at the register with a bottle of Grey Goose, a six-pack of beer, a bag of tortilla chips, and a Butterfinger. He tore his gaze from her chest, glanced over her items, and began to ring her up.

“Do you have Kix?”

“Sorry?” The man stared at her for a moment before his gaze drifted.

“Up here, you little prick, and don’t think for a minute I didn’t see you staring at my ass,” she said shortly. “Kix, the cereal. I didn’t see it. You don’t carry it?”

He shrugged. “Guess not. We’re more of a beer and chips store.”

“Yeah,” she said, handing over her card, “I get that vibe.”

“You gonna want gas?” he asked, his hand hovering over the card machine.

“How far is it to Darrington?”

“’Bout half an hour.”

“No.”

He ran the transaction and handed back her card. “You want a bag?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“You headed up for the hiking?” he asked, handing her the bag. She took the alcohol and snacks and walked out without answering, dropping her sunglasses back down over her eyes. The clerk watched her go, eyes filled with longing.

She wrenched open the door to the truck and tossed the bag into the front seat before turning her head and whistling. “Barney!” she called. “Barney!” She whistled again, and the dog bounded across the road and up into the cab. “Back seat, Barney,” she said, ruffling his ears. “You know that.” Barney gave her a mournful look and clambered into the back as she slid the seat back into place. As she settled into the driver’s seat and turned over the engine, Barney pushed his nose against the back of her neck. She put the truck into gear and reached back to scratch his head. “We’re almost there, Barney.”

With a screech of the tires, she pulled the truck back out onto the road, heading east towards Darrington. She fiddled with the radio until she found a station that came in clearly—no easy task out here in pretty much the middle of nowhere—cranked up the volume, and sailed down the road with “Back in Black” by AC/DC blasting out the windows and Barney howling in her ear. To shut him up before she went deaf, she broke into the bag of tortilla chips and fed him a handful.

“I was saving those to eat with the game tonight,” she told him. “You owe me.” He responded by giving her a chip-laden lick to the cheek. She wiped her face off and opened the Butterfinger to eat while driving. Barney tried to climb into the front seat; tired of arguing with him, she let him and gave him the rest of the chips to eat.

“If you get sick in my truck, I am kicking your ass out,” she said. He looked up at her with big brown eyes, his tongue hanging out, and wagged his tail. She ruffled his ears and turned her attention back to the road.

About two miles outside of town, she was just starting to slow down when she spotted lights in her rearview mirror.

“You have got to be shitting me,” she muttered, flicking on her blinker and pulling over to the side of the road. As she turned off the truck and sat waiting for the deputy to come up to her window, she tapped impatiently on the wheel, trying to work out what she could say that wouldn’t piss him off.

The knock startled her, and as she rolled the window down it took her a minute, as he was talking, to realize who he was.

“License and registration, please,” he said.

She leaned sideways and dug them out of the junk in the glovebox. As she handed them over, she studied him covertly, trying to decide if he really was who she thought he was. He’d put on some weight since she’d last seen him, chopped off his hair, chipped a tooth…

“Faye Spencer,” he read, and frowned. He looked up from her driver’s license and directly at her. “What—like the writer Faye Spencer?”

She tried a smile. It felt funny. She hadn’t smiled in a long time. “Yep,” she said. “That’s me.”

Barney yowled in the back seat. The deputy leaned sideways and peered at the dog.

“Barney, shut up,” Faye said. “Sorry.”

“Ms. Spencer, you were going seventy-five in a fifty zone,” the deputy said.

“Yes,” she said. “I know. Look, the thing is—”

“Ma’am, I realize you’re probably accustomed to special treatment, seeing as you’re famous and all, but—”

“Oh, no,” she said hastily, “that’s not it at all. Look, Jim—”

“Excuse me?” he said.

“For Christ’s sake,” she muttered. “Look, Jim, I know I haven’t been back in, Jesus, I don’t know, fifteen years, but are you seriously that thick that you recognize the name on the license and not the face?”

He stared at her, his open face radiating confusion. She rubbed her temples, desperately reining in her tongue.

“Freshman year, Physics, Mr. Eckhert. Sophomore year, World History, Mrs. Malloy. Pretty sure we had swimming lessons together every summer from about the time we were seven until we were about twelve. You tried to kiss me when we were thirteen. You missed.” She stared at him. “Remember me yet? I’m Sarah Gilman’s niece.”

“Wha—Spence?” He laughed and pulled open the door. “Come on out here and give us a hug!”

Grimacing, Faye let herself get pulled out of the cab and into a massive bear hug. Jim Gaffney was not a small man, and she could feel her ribs creaking. She felt momentary relief when he released her, which immediately vanished when he planted a kiss on her lips.

“Didn’t miss that time,” he said.

“No,” she said, a stiff smile on her face. “You didn’t.”

Previous: Funeral
Next: Spence II

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rebecca

Last summer, I started a story that was meant to be a reverse Cinderella. It's since expanded rather beyond that, but certain aspects have remained, like the ball scene from which this excerpt is taken.

My main characters, Rebecca and El, come from different worlds: El grew up on the streets, while Rebecca is the only daughter of an Earl. They met by accident while children, and by chance they have met again at a series of balls given in honour of Rebecca's birthday. El and Rebecca are at these parties for different reasons: she is desperately searching for a husband so she can get out of marrying her cousin Richard; he is looking for his sorcerer father, whom he has never met. El disguises himself as a visiting dignitary, the Prince of Sierre, in order to gain access to the Earl's home; he knows who Rebecca is, but she doesn't recognise him - the last time they saw each other was ten years earlier.

This excerpt is taken from the beginning of the second night of the three balls; Rebecca met El, whom she believes to be a prince, the first night and is hoping to see him again, but it is her cousin Richard who finds her first.



She wore the blue and silver gown the next evening and searched in vain for the Prince of Sierre for the first hour of the ball. She scarcely noticed when her guests spoke to her, and when required to give a reply, said the first thing that came into her head.

"Still searching for that Prince of yours, I see," said a voice in her ear.

Rebecca started in surprise and looked up, her hand at her heart. "Richard!" she said. "I wish you would not do that. You frightened me."

"I wish you would look more gay," he replied, looking petulant. "These people are all here for your sake. The least you could do is smile and show them how happy they make you."

She glanced sideways at him through her lashes. "Because no woman should ever be sad, Richard?"

He tapped a finger absently on the head of his cane. "Well, I certainly would expect you to be happy once we are married. After all, what would you have to be unhappy about? You will be married to
me, and one can hardly complain about that."

"You are vile, Richard."

He chucked her under the chin. "You will have to learn to hold that pretty tongue of yours, Rebecca." His black eyes stared down at her. "I would hate to have to cut it out of your mouth."

She swallowed. "I won't let you have your way, you know," she whispered. "Your word does not carry the weight of law."

"No," Richard said thoughtfully. "But I have your father's ear. And he does so want our names joined. And I want your land. It is hardly a difficult task to accomplish." He smiled, his eyes cold. "Chin up, Rebecca. Do as I tell you, and you'll never want for anything. You're smart enough to know you shouldn't cross me."

"I'll find another way," Rebecca said. She looked around the room, and her lips parted in unconscious relief as she saw the Prince enter at the far end of the ballroom. "I'll marry someone else," she said. "Anyone else, just so long as it's not
you."

Richard followed her gaze and the corners of his mouth turned up slightly. "He'd never marry you," he murmured. "He is so far above you that you are no more than a speck in his eye. And you are past your prime, Rebecca." He touched the tip of one finger to Rebecca's cheek and she shivered. "You thought you were clever, rejecting all of your suitors in an effort to hide that it was only me you did not want, but you have destroyed any chance you ever had of escaping me, and now you are too old and I am the only one who will ever have you."

"I am not
old," Rebecca said, but it sounded weak to her ears.

He laughed softly, and the skin on the back of Rebecca's neck crawled. "Neither are you fresh meat any longer." He waved a languid hand at the room. "There are so many more tender little pieces now, just waiting for the young men to snatch them up." His thumb trailed down her cheek and lingered by the corner of her mouth. "You will give in eventually. I already have your father's consent. If you are stubborn long enough, eventually he will decide that
your consent is not needed.

Rebecca bit down hard on her lip to hold back the tears threatening to well up in her eyes. Richard already knew she was frightened of him; she mustn't let him know how frightened, or all would be lost and she would never have any chance of escaping.

"Good evening, Miss St. Claire," said a soft voice from behind Richard.

Richard's hand dropped back to his side and he took a slight step away from his cousin at the words. Rebecca's head came up so quickly, her eyes darting past Richard's shoulder, that she nearly missed the expression on her cousin's face. It was so fleeting, in any case, that for a moment she thought she had imagined it, and, indeed, she almost wished she had; he looked so furious at the intrusion that it felt as though someone had dropped a block of ice into the pit of her stomach. Richard did not like it when other men moved in on what he considered his property, but up until this moment Rebecca had never shown any real interest in any of the men paying her court, so he had not retaliated with anything other than petty remarks. Rebecca had a sudden, overwhelming fear for the Prince's safety.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Blackpool and Cambridge

Nothing too much of interest this time, I'm afraid. I spent Christmas in Blackpool with my sister's boyfriend's family, and New Year's in Cambridge, and though I did my best to get my camera out, I didn't get a whole lot of pictures taken, and there weren't a lot of very good ones out of those that I did take.

Wine and candle, Christmas Eve

Bailey's glasses (b&w), Christmas Eve

Wine and candle (b&w), Christmas Eve

Nativity candle, Christmas Eve

Signpost (sepia)

Storey's Way, Cambridge (sepia) - I think this is the only one of this whole lot that I'm happy with.

Dilapidated fence (sepia)

Dead leaves that refuse to fall (b&w)