Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tumbleweed Contessa's Blog Stuff -- a short excerpt from mystery WIP

What's that you say? What am I working on currently? You want an excerpt? How about long "short excerpt" of a scene from my mystery WIP (aka -- typos and all)? Okay, but first, I always like to know what the characters look like; don't you? Before we get to the excerpt, here's an idea of how I see the two cousins. On the left, Hannah Westcott and next to her, Antonia Westcott. 

What you need to know to help you understand the scene just a little better. Antonia was ten years old when her family was in Jaffa; her father was sent there on the King's business. Napoleon and his army entered Jaffa and killed everyone. Antonia and a Jewish boy managed to escape Napoleon but were captured by an Arab and kept as slaves... until another Englishman found her and helped her escape and brought her home to England. 
And, now, here's a part pulled from the middle of a scene from:

Chapter 2
A Morning Call Before Eta Pie and The Ladies Witness A Near Death

“You’re smiling?”

“Of course. I am happy to do whatever I am able to do for you.” How could her family continue to take money from her? Unless. Did they, then, presume they stood equally with her upon some ground belonging mutually to all of them?

“Since you understand, I must continue to be blunt, Cousin.” 

This Hannah said with a smile that was not a true smile. It was nearly vulgar. Or, so Antonia thought. “Speak plainly then.” 

Hannah sat wringing her hands in her lap. “I think you like Lord Holsworthy.”

“Yes; I find him to be quite genuine and friendly.”

“You know what I mean. You are setting your cap for him.”

“I do like him, but my feelings for him are not those of love. And, I can only assume his ambitions do not go beyond feelings he carries for you.”

“And your ambitions?”

Antonia met Hannah’s gaze squarely. “My ambitions concern no man at this time.”

Hannah laughed.

“I think I rather like hearing you laughter; I do indeed. I must tell you that it does me good to hear you laugh with such abandon, but I swear to you, I have no desires for this man you claim for yourself.”

Of course, everything she said about having no ambition where Viscount Holsworthy was concerned rang false. Hannah’s notion that her cousin’s sensibilities were otherwise would prove more honest than Antonia’s words.

Hannah’s happy manner abandoned her and she said rather gloomily, “Is that so?”

They sat together in silence for a few minutes, Hannah fingering some smaller article lying on the same table, something that belonged to Antonia. It was a small letter knife Antonia had placed there after she and Holsworthy talked yesterday. He had handed it to her in the library and said to her, “Please, keep it. I should like to know something of mine shall be useful in your hands.” Antonia blushed, but she kept it. The handle was cast and gilt, a small item of no great value he promised, the price “a few shillings”. And, as Hannah, pensive, sat passing it from hand to hand, Antonia held her breath.

Suddenly, Hannah stopped to looked at it. “Who gave this to you?”

“Good Heavens! Why? And why ask in such an accusing tone as if you thought I stole it?”

Hannah’s lips thinned. “Because, if it’s a gift from a certain someone, someone whom I know has a letter knife exactly like this, then I shall take it up with him.”

Antonia couldn’t lie. Not completely. “Lord Holsworthy let me borrow it yesterday. I believe he forgot about it, so I brought it up here to open my morning mail... until I see him next.”

Hannah let it drop to the marble tabletop from her fingers with a noise. Angry, she shoved it away from her so it fell onto the carpet on the other side of the table, near where Antonia sat.

“Hannah!” Antonia leaned over the arm of the chair’s arm and picked it up. “Such a violent reaction is uncalled for and most unreasonable. Please stop.”

“Apologies, Cousin,” she said. “I didn’t mean it. Oh, blast that unfortunate knife.”

“Take it. You can return it to him when he calls on you next.”

“By no means am I going to do that. He let you borrow it. He will expect it from you and question me if I return it.” Hannah had fixed her eyes upon Antonia and her hands returned to her lap.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake. Quit being so unreasonable and take the blasted thing. It means nothing to me and it has sorely upset you.”

“That’s not quite fair.”

“I didn’t say it to be unfair.”

Hannah pouted a moment before she said, “I’m not sure of that, Antonia. I can almost believe you do mean it to be inconsiderate of my feelings. That you were being spiteful. You tell me you will give my father money for my dowry and then you make me miserable by saying this knife is from the man I love.”

Antonia let her head fall back enough to look up at the ceiling. She rolled her eyes and gripped the arms of her chair. “I am not making you miserable, Hannah. Certainly not willfully.”

“Can you tell me honestly he left it with you by accident and not as a gift?”

“Hannah, I told you all that happened with regards to that bloody letter knife. Now, please, let us talk of more pleasant things.”

“Your foul language indicates you are hiding something.”

“Yes, I am.”

“I knew it!”

“My anger, dear Cousin. I’m hiding my growing anger,” she responded, still facing the ceiling.

“Well, if it was a gift, it is your responsibility to tell me, not to let me find that thing and wonder.”

Antonia would have said it was so if she were brave enough to dare, but she never bothered to answer. She sat silent, and turning her face away from Hannah’s, longed for her cousin’s visit to end, and felt she lost some of her hard-earned self-respect.

“See here, Antonia,” Hannah said, “I’m finding it quite difficult to understand you. When I think of what passed between us only minutes ago, and when I consider what you shared of the horrors you endured in your life with that horrid man, and if I sum these with your treatment of me just now, I quite find myself at a loss to understand your character.”

“I fear I cannot help you,” Antonia bit out, her face still turned away.

“I thought you might consider your family, well, me mostly, with love. But, this quarreling with me? I cannot find sufficient clearness of the sweet, genteel lady you wish to be. No, none. Not even a morsel of sweet poetry. I thought I might be beginning to understand you. Then, you lie about this gift to you from the man you say you know I love and it’s as though you have no thought to your sin. Should I blame myself for you driving yourself to such fatal misgivings?”

Now, Antonia turned towards her cousin sharply, as though she thought to interrupt Hannah. Fatal misgivings! But she said nothing, although Hannah paused for her to speak.

And then, Hannah continued. “I had thought I might be understanding my dear cousin better. I begin to see being a lady is too much for you to ever learn. By heavens! Yes. There is no misinterpreting what you have grown up to be. If ever there was a relative driven to be deceitful and mean, you can never claim it is not you. My mother and father accepted you into their home, and you dared take it away. And now you strive to take away from me, your own cousin, the man I love.”

Antonia pinched her lips together and glared at Hannah. She looked at her with something of Hannah’s own fierceness on her face, as though she was preparing for battle. But, she still said nothing, and Hannah went on.

“And, never believe I do not now understand it when you offered to pay my dowry. You expect to take that amount from the nine hundred you promised my father. I may have been vain enough to believe you were offering me a gift of love, but surely that was unnatural. By heavens, it was my own foolishness to believe such a thing and to believe you ever had such a warm heart. Put yourself in my place, if you’re able, and tell me you would not have thought the same. Yesterday evening, I sincerely believed your conduct, on the whole, was improving, even intelligent and quite becoming as a lady.” She said all that and then shook her head.

The last of Hannah’s diatribe grated on Antonia’s ears and her anger was shown by the hurried tapping motion of her foot on the floor because she once again chose to look at the boring ceiling rather than her hateful cousin. 

Hannah noted her cousin's tapping like that of some mad woman,  but she went on as though she had not made note of it.

“Stop looking up at the ceiling and tell me you cannot see how your present behavior makes everything I have shared this morning is more a mystery than the true nature of your character? No; stop!” she said when Antonia at last lowered her face. “Never try to reassure me. What should I think? And, how would you expect me to behave with you? And after I had hoped you might love me like your sister.”

As she said her last word, she gazed at Antonia with her eyes wide and her mouth round like a perfect o and that last word came out with a denigrating hiss. And, though Antonia made no effort to speak, Hannah dared to pause again. Did her cousin dare hope she might not realize the full implication of her questions? Antonia realized far more; the full scale of her cousin’s hatred, of Hannah’s complete unladylike qualities, and of this woman’s need for Antonia’s money.

“I just simply do not understand the person you are. What am I to think?” Hannah asked.

Then, her cousin paused one last time and Antonia found that the time had come for her to say something. “I wonder you are unable to understand,” Antonia said, “just how much I have suffered and have survived.”

“Is that to be your answer to me?”

“I have no idea what you expect me to say.”

“I might expect an explanation for such behavior from you.”

Antonia stood; so did Hannah. Still, Antonia said nothing more. She picked up the letter knife Lord Holsworthy gave to her with an offering of more, and she held it out so Hannah might take it, held it with a little doubt that her cousin would take it, and wondered what the angry woman might do with it if she did take it.

“Do you have anything you wish to tell me?”

“Not now, Hannah. You’re angry and I have no desire to speak to you, or anyone, in such a temperament.”

“Do you think I don’t have cause to be of such a frame of mind? Are you so feebleminded you cannot see how badly you have treated me?”

“Hannah, right now my head aches and I am wretched. I want you to leave.”

“There then is your gift!” she said, and she took the letter knife from Antonia and threw it violently into the fender, beneath the fire-grate, and with quick steps, walked to the door. When Hannah’s hand was on the door handle, she turned and said, “When I leave, think hard on your conduct to me.” Then, she left and Antonia remained still until she heard her cousin’s footfalls on the steps.

When she was sure her hateful cousin was gone, Antonia’s first movement was to search for the letter knife. Ellen entered and Antonia looked at her maid over her shoulder. On her hands and knees in front of the grate was not dignified, but it seemed the most natural thing.

“Oh, miss. What are you doing?”

“Looking for a letter knife.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Tumbleweed Contessa's Poem — Single-Serving Packages

One after another relapse after another second ticking to the next making it difficult to ring in another year before the world shakes and time cannot stop gossiping about the killing blood on the bedroom walls.

© Single-Serving Packages

Christmas, pock marked from naked
Branches shoved by the fractious winds,
Exposed the signs of a struggling
Economy and weather-beaten lumps
Of forgotten love in a poverty-ridden
Heart, then waned with expectant hope.

It turned out I was good at holding onto
Bad dreams, bad at keeping good lovers
Who wanted to walk in wet leaves singing.
Do you know who I am when no one
Is looking? When just-for-the-night guys
Forget to remember me between breaths?

Painting is equal parts prayer and hell’s fire, as light
As a meteor reflected off morning’s icy lake and
As dark as your dog’s bones in the backyard grave, or
Like when you are lying in an embrace, stretched,
Kissing him with all your heart and then you are
Curled like a fetus in a basket wanting to be loved.

The holiday ham tongued the glaze
Of hunger’s disillusionment and
Taste buds cursed the tangled tree lights
While I spun in a dance of your
Disproportionate equilibrium and
Tepid nostalgia of another lover, not me.

Mimi Wolske

All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Poetry: Once Upon A University Drive

The hottest ticket in town.
Still art, dancing and bleeding poetic life.

© Once Upon A University Drive

Leaning on a crutch of photos,
Vivid and pale ghosts from my past
Dance around me tinted with gaiety,
Nonchalance, and somberness,
Bringing shadowed and vivid memories
Once again ambrosial or unsavory.

Prone on spots in time, I linger;
One thousand gray tints covering
A wistful heart’s pale blue floor blanket
As lighter shades of gray framed
Outside my window come singing stormy
Songs written by a factious wind.

Mimi Wolske
All Rights Reserved