Don Pedro: "In faith, lady, you have a merry heart."The reason I have kept mum about The Baby in the last few posts is because I have not been working on The Baby. Logical enough. I have been working instead at The Windy Side of Care (currently titled thus), which is my novella for Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Five Glass Slippers contest. The reason for this is that my fall is filling up with several things that will be cutting out a total of at least three weeks' writing time and the final draft of my entry must be in by December. I want to finish the 25,000 words, get feedback, and edit all before that time and since any deadline on The Baby is self-imposed, I figured it could wait. I don't want to give too much of The Windy Side of Care away because if it doesn't make it as a winner in this particular contest, I might just Do Something With It, like publish it so you can have something of mine to read while I wait for all these others things to get properly published. (garump-guddy-rump) I did, however, think you might like a pitch and some snippets so you can see in which realm my brain has been working:
Beatrice: "Yea, my lord. I thank it, poor fool. It keeps on the windy side of care."-Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing
Lady Alis has never accepted the tale that her widowed father died and left her in the care of her step-mother, Laureldina; nowhere in the records can she find a man matching her alleged father's name, and her resemblance to the King of Ashby is too remarkable to ignore. Convinced that she was swapped at birth with the current Prince Auguste, Alis must stake her claim to the throne of Ashby before the prince's twenty-fourth birthday when he will be confirmed as the heir-proper. With the help of an errand-boy, an old woman, and a far-from-fairy godfather, Alis plots to take the throne. For all this careful planing, Alis never thought to fall in love, nor to murder the royal. But sometimes life--and love--is a bit risky on the windy side of care.
"If Auguste Blenheim the Pig had not stolen my birthright, dear Lord, would I be half as patient as I am?"
The door to Laureldina's bedchamber was blocked by Charlotte Russe; it was a modern marvel how that great fat beast managed to get from one place to the other faster than I, a slender maiden, could. I suspected secret passages or teleportation, but that was unconfirmed.
She took a bite of toast with a dreamy sigh and rested the point of her chin in her hand. "J'adore mi amour."
"Don't speak French, Vivienne." Clarisse rolled out of bed and pulled a yellow silk wrapper from the chair onto her curvaceous frame. "It's so inelegant."
"But Clarisse, last month you told me it was the height of fashion."
Clarisse pushed me out of the way and hugged Vivienne's neck. "Of course I did dear. But that was before you started using it."
"Well met, little shrew." William ran a hand over his smooth chin and shook his head, smiling at me. "You are the sort of harpie they write epics about, woman! The tongue on you is enough to cut a man at the knees and leave him begging for more."
I kissed the letter to Lord Humphries with a prayer and handed it to Stockton. "He has agreed to help in any way he can and since I found that not a single Carlisle Bickersnath has ever lived or died in the kingdom..."
"Never one? Gawwww." Stockton stuffed the last cookie in his mouth and slid off the stool. "Tha's just buildin' they army, ain't tha? First me and Ellen, now 'umphries...gawww."
I pushed away from the wall, pressing my fingers against my temples to still the dizziness. "Well. I am safe...for now."
"Safe from what?"
William's sudden, sliding voice sent a lightning-rod jolt up my spine and I wished for one moment that I was the kind of girl who fainted.
"Ohhhh..blast it--do you know what I want to do? No, you would not guess; you're much too refined." With a quick step, Auguste grabbed Belkin by the jacket and shoved him toward the window, pressing the man's nose against the pane. "I want to go out there and find myself a plump village lass and kiss her--hard. Y'understand? I want to dig my hands in a dirty furrow and bring up a handful of potatoes and...and cook them myself. I want to ride Feather-Fellow at a full gallop and risk breaking my neck if I take a fancy for it, and I want to miss every Cabinet meeting from here till kingdom come!"
It had been a mistake to come that close to him. William wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me close, resting his chin on my head. "Alis, Alis. What's a man to do?"
Struggle was useless. I folded my wings like a stubborn bird and made my head as much like a stone as possible so he'd not find it comfortable to rest there. "Do about what? Ask Laureldina for the extra two weeks and we'll go up to Weircannon and all will be well; Vivienne and Clarisse know lots of people--I'm sure they could find you a nice girl."
...William released me and pushed me ahead of him toward the house. "I don't know..." he said. "Girls don't like my sisters, y'know. Men trouble and all that."
Charlotte Russe waddled to my feet and batted the hem of my skirt as if to demand some solace after being deposited in a basement kitchen by a dirty cabman who swore and smelled like sardines.
I leaned against the table, hands pressed on the cool wood, and stared at Ellen. "You are a conniving devil!"
She shrugged her shoulders. "Eh, ah'm a woman. Which is mostly th'same thing."
I patted Auguste on the shoulder and smiled at a passing cab-driver so we might not look like a trio in the throes of a political drama of national importance. "Perhaps we'd better speak somewhere else," I said. "And just a pointer: you really don't know how to speak to a woman."
There you go! I hope you enjoyed this peek at The Windy Side of Care because since it's a contest-piece I can't give you any more than that. (And rest assured, whatever you may think you didn't read anything vital to the plot so tweedle-dee. You're none the wiser. ;) If any of you are entering the contest I'd love to see snippets of yours story. I had two plots going and this one just flew away with me and is probably the strangest Cinderella-story I've ever read. The judges may not like it, but it makes me laugh so I'm glad I've taken the time.