I couldn’t help but share this excerpt from Friday’s NaNoWriMo-ing. Maybe it’s the exhaustion talking, but I had fun writing this one. Sorry, no threats of awful poetry today. LOL
I’ve been solidifying some of the back-story of my main character, Bobbi Williamson. I don’t know if this will ever show up in anything else or not. I wrote this for me. I’m hoping that if I can get more of her past down in words, not just in my head, I’ll be able to “fix” some of the plot dilemma(s) I’ve caused myself.
This excerpt takes place somewhere around 1911 or 1912. I don’t usually write “period pieces,” but Bobbi’s been around for a little while. And yes, she wasn’t always a Williamson. 😉 This excerpt is mostly unedited.
“I’m not going. I don’t feel well.”
“Nonsense. It’s just nerves.”
My mother, Emily Stewart, may have been a petite woman, but she made up for her size with sheer tenacity. Once she made a decision, she rarely deviated from her path. That didn’t mean she always made sound choices for herself or her family, but at least her stubbornness was something that could be counted on.
“Mother, I don’t want to see him again. Freddy doesn’t want to see me, either. He only invited me to be polite. I don’t want to ruin his engagement party.”
“Don’t be naïve. This has nothing to do with him. This is your chance to show the world that Fredrick Goodman made a terrible mistake. You are, by far, superior to the little tart he’s engaged to, and don’t you forget it.”
“Mother…” My words fell short as Emily pierced me with a callous expression. “Yes, Mother.”
“Good. Hannah? Miss Stewart will be wearing the new corset from London and her green gown with the buttons trimmed along the sides. That shade of green always looks so beautiful on her, don’t you agree? It brings out the color of her eyes.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the young maid answered, eyes cast respectfully downward.
“Mother! I thought you wanted me to wear my yellow dress-”
“Yellow makes your skin look sallow.”
Before I could argue that she was the one who’d insisted that I looked “simply effervescent” in yellow only two days prior, Hannah, my maid, began pulling a gown of sea green, heavy silk charmeuse from my wardrobe. Hannah helped me dress while Mother fussed and supervised.
“The corset’s too long,” I muttered, taking in shallow breaths as Hannah pulled on the long loops at my waist, adjusting the criss-crossed laces along my spine as needed. The garment became tighter and tighter around my torso. “How am I supposed to sit in this?”
“Your corset’s fine. It’s the latest fashion. It’s supposed to go over your hips, to elongate your waist. Sitting makes you look squat. Do you want to look squat, Roberta?”
“No,” seemed like the most logical answer.
“You’re going to be dancing tonight, not sitting. Besides, you have the perfect bosom for the new dress lines. I want my daughter to be the most stylish woman at the party.”
Maybe long waists were fashionable, but my everyday corset was much shorter and contoured for ease of movement. My new corset confined my hips to the point of torture. I couldn’t imagine dancing while wearing it.
“Mmm…I’m glad my small bosom is finally fashionable enough for your inspection,” I said. I sucked in another sharp breath as Hannah tied the loops together in a bow, as if I were gift wrapped when seen from behind. She tucked the ends of the bow under the bottom lacings.
“Men do not appreciate sarcasm, Roberta, and neither do I.”
“Well Mother, they don’t appreciate going to church or eating their vegetables, either,” I remarked.
Emily gave me a cold smile. “Perhaps, but that is why it is our purpose, as women, to gently guide the men in our lives, to marry someone who is both worthy and suitable, so we can fulfill our destiny, and be a helpmate to our husbands. We were put on this Earth to shape and mold them into greatness. You will never have the opportunity to guide anyone unless you learn to use discernment.”
My mother, the queen of stealthy manipulation, had been quietly carving away at my father’s personality for over four decades. Emily Stewart was the goddess of her own privileged universe. Like any good god, she’d slowly shaped my father into her own image. My father, Holland Stewart, may have thought he was the head of our household, to outsiders he seemed like a tyrant on his throne, but my mother was the one wielding most of the power. Unfortunately, she didn’t have nearly the same level of control over her own rebellious offspring.
“Then perhaps you should ask Father to have a chat with William about his sense of ‘discernment.’ I think William is a bit confused. You do know that your son didn’t come home until after four this morning. Well, of course you do. Perhaps William left his ‘discernment’ in Mrs. Wethersfield’s boudoir. Her husband’s out of town again on business, but I’m certain you know that as well.”
Hannah turned her back on the pair of us as she cleared her throat, stifling a nervous squeak that threatened to turn into a full-on giggle. She did her best to hide her inappropriate display of emotion by becoming unnaturally fascinated with the hairbrush on my dressing table. She quickly managed to neutralize the expression on her face, though her skin glowed pink with embarrassment. Hannah found my brother’s antics both shocking and entertaining, though in her defense, he’d recently become much more blatant in his general disregard for society’s rules.
Emily glared at the maid, but chastised me instead.
“Roberta! You shouldn’t talk about your brother like that. He’s in mourning. Be a lady.”
“His wife died six years ago. He isn’t mourning anything. Just remember, his reputation reflects upon my reputation. You do want me to marry well, don’t you?”
Emily frowned. Neither of my parents hid the fact that there were two sets of standards with regards to my older brother and myself. Even when we were young, they’d never treated us the same. They never forgave me for being born female either, but that’s another story.