A Bit of Stuff

Since a) everything to talk about has been talked about, b) I am currently taking a break before doing more school, and b) I’ve been writing in Shard, I thought it was about time to post another excerpt. Note, if you please, that the previous one I posted ages ago has been tweaked [read: forget everything you’ve already read]. And now, voila.

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The world was still. It was like everything had frozen, everything had just…just stopped, just ceased to be, to breathe, Was I even breathing? Things were happening so quickly, and they had been for months, and now it all had simply…ceased. And I sat on the edge of my bed, staring at the crystal glass window with the soft white drapes hanging around it.

My father was dead. My father who had been my last truly close relative was dead. I hadn’t known him, but it felt like bullets ripping through my chest. My last blood, gone.

I was now entirely dependent on Lord Frederick and Lady Georgia, and if they had ever made any pretense that they loved me (which they hadn’t), that was all finished now.

By their decision, by their will, it was arranged that I would be married to a man who was, in my and many others’ opinions, one of the most loathsome humans alive. But he was rich. Lord Edward Wellington was rich and handsome, and would produce children with pretty faces, and my guardians didn’t care about my desires, and so that was that.

Rain was falling on the windows, like the glass was cracking noiselessly and moving like water.
Where I sat on my bed in the seventh black gown I’d worn in seven days, where time had stopped since morning and it was now evening, I felt the beginnings of waking up. First the numbness turned to heat, then to needles, then to pain. I waited. I stopped breathing as I awoke, and I took a deep breath when it was over, a deep gasp, like someone who’d been drowning.

And then I stood and took my black cloak, and I left. There was nothing and no one to stop me, because I was Elizabeth. Elizabeth who never did anything. But now I was doing something, and I felt no fear as I rode Lord Frederick’s black steed towards town.

The fear came later. It came when I reached the outskirts of London and it was early morning – so early that the only people about were rich Lords and Ladies coming back from the theater or from gambling, and night walkers, criminals. Pirates. I did not know any of this first hand, as my guardians had kept me from the city for the ten years since my mother’s death, but I’d heard Lord Frederick and his friends discussing these people like they were stray, rabid dogs.

At the first possible place I dismounted and tied the reigns of Lord Frederick’s horse to a post. I knew he would get it back; the saddle had the man’s crest on it, and everyone knew him. I hid myself and my gown as well as I could with the cloak and large hood, and I hunched over to give the appearance of an old lady. I had no idea whether or not it worked, but I didn’t know what else to do. And that was when the fear came again. I had no idea where to go. It suddenly occurred to me how incredibly idiotic it was to have left my home, however unhomely it might be, with no plan, no weapons, and no street sense.

I counted to ten with my eyes closed and pushed the fear to one side of my mind. From what I’d heard from Lord Frederick, I decided that these people, the strays, might let me join them – or whatever it was called – if I made it clear I wanted to be one of them. With this naive but hopeful assessment, I headed toward the closest dark alley and proceeded to walk through it.

Before long I found myself lost, but I saw that there was a tavern ahead, so I ran through the puddled street and hurried inside. The minute I did, at least twenty pairs of disinterested eyes fixed onto me. I kept my head down and my hood covering my hair, and I walked to the counter, where a dazed old man was drying mugs. I sat down and tried to be nonchalant, but I couldn’t help but notice that as I walked it grew quieter inside the building. The hair on my neck raised as their stares grew more interested and harder. The old man filled a mug with some kind of strong smelling drink and slid it to me across the counter without me asking for it, and I held it tightly with both hands as if it was a anchor that would save me.

Another man, smelling like old ale and a very great quantity of new rum, came and sat by my elbow. He was not so old, but there was a hardness about him that made him seem seventy. I ignored him but my heart was pounding so hard and fast that I was sure he must hear it.

“Are ye dressed in mourning garb because ye lost a lover?” he asked with fake sympathy.

I said nothing. He pounded his fist on the counter and I jumped before I could help myself. He chuckled, as did several others in the room.

“We can help ye with the mourning,” he said ruggedly, his voice rasping through a hungry throat.

My insides shuddered, and adrenaline – the small amount I had – glided into the spaces of my body it could fill before it ran out. But it was enough to hold me together, and I took a large gulp of whatever mix of grog was in the mug to show him I was not afraid.

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