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The following is a list of all entries from the Sunday Stories category.

Sunday Stories: Rose – Part Three

I’m loving these Sunday Stories because I’m so lazy that it makes me smile to just copy and paste a story into a blog entry and call it a blogging day. 😉 Haha… But seriously, it makes me smile to read through this story that I wrote when I was twelve! Way back when I knew nothing about writing or editing or the publishing process, and I was just writing because it made me happy. 🙂

Hope you enjoy this week’s installment! Let me know what you think in the comments!

red curl

Chapter Three:

The sweet smell of rain and grass envelops me as I squeal and toddle across the field of bright red flowers. She giggles and chases after me, her bright eyes sparkling with laughter. She scoops me up in her arms and spins me around. “Come here, my little rose,” she calls. She collapses onto the bed of flowers beside me and closes her eyes. The rain trickles down my little face as I watch her. Her red curls clung to her cheeks. She opens her mouth and tilts up her head. She’s singing—an old Irish lullaby, her voice softly lilting. My pudgy hands reach out and grasp a flower. I lay it on her stomach and wait. She slowly opens her eyes and smiles at me. “I love you, Rose,” she whispers. Her voice is soft and warm. Just like I remember it.

I woke up to a rosy glow coming from the window. The beams of light fell on the cold bedroom floor. Beside me Annie peacefully dreamed away.

It was the first time I’d been alone since I got to America. I stared at the ceiling in silence.

The remnants of my dream faded away. I desperately searched my mind, longing to remember what she looked like again; what she smelled like; what she sounded like.

I sighed and rolled over, wiping the tears from my eyes. What is the point of dreams? They do nothing except remind you of the things you will never remember.

I shivered and tucked the blanket under my chin.

I tried to remember what it was Mama had said about what happens after you die, but I couldn’t recall ever talking about it.

Where was she? Floating around in some distant land on a little cloud; or lying under the ground somewhere?

My mouth made some kind of strangled sigh that made Annie roll over. Her long eyelashes cast shadows on her pale cheeks; her lips tilted in a smile. She mumbled something in her sleep.

I rolled my eyes. What are you thinking, Rose? You know there’s not a God. I crossed my arms and twisted up my lip. I refused to believe a so-called “loving” person would let children be made orphans and parents be made childless.

I grunted again. Annie wiped her nose drowsily. My bitter thoughts slowly seeped away.

It’s such a shame to have to awaken peaceful souls and make them face reality.

“Good morning, Annie,” I whispered. “Wake up.”

Annie rustled and yawned. “Rose?” Her voice was soft and sleepy. She paused thoughtfully. “Why does my face feel warm and fuzzy? The rest of me’s so cold.”

I looked at the beams of sunlight spreading colorful rays all over the room. “You’re probably getting that heat from the sun. It looks beautiful.”

“Oh,” Annie climbed out of bed and felt her way to the window. She touched the glass. I pulled my knees up to my chest and watched her. “It is warm,” she said, pausing. “Rose, what does it look like? Is there a rainbow in this room?”

I started. Slowly, I put my knees down and tried to think of what to say. “Well, I’m not really good at describing things. You probably wouldn’t like it.” I sighed. Pathetic.

Annie frowned. “Please try.”

I bit my lip. “Well, a rainbow really isn’t a certain color or mood. It’s lots of colors, so it has lots of moods.” So far, so good. “It’s warm, like a fire, but it’s also cool like winter.” I paused, wondering whether to go on. “I’d like to think of a rainbow as looking like something different, though. To me it feels like love. Like yours and Jenny and Patrick’s love, and my love, and Aunt Catherine’s love. That’s what rainbows feel like, which is even more important then how they look.” My eyes welled up with tears. I was thankful Annie couldn’t see them.

She walked across the room and touched my cheek. Could she feel the wetness? “Thank you, Rose,” she said sweetly before she kissed me and felt her way out of the room.

I stared at the doorway long after she’d left.

*

“Who are you?” The small man squinted at me and Jenny. His breeches were ill-fitting and his vest was halfway opened. With every word he spoke spit flew in our faces.

I winced and wiped it off my cheek. How pleasant. “As I said, I’m Rosalyn Keegan, and this is Jenny Moore. We just arrived from Ireland yesterday.” I folded my hands and tried to look professional.

Mr. Jenkins grunted. “Of courthe. I could tell that the moment you opened your mouths.” He bent over his paperwork. “I thuppose you want a job, eh? Well, thith is the plathe to be if you’re Irith or black. I thuppose I’ll give you the thpoths.” He looked up and stared into my eyes. “You’ll haf to thtart tomorrow.”

What? I bit my lip and kept my hands from wiping the spit off my forehead. “We’re available any time, sir.”

“Good,” Mr. Jenkins had a hungry look in his beady eyes. “Yeth, very good.” He rubbed his hands together greedily. “You’ll need to work thwelve hourths a day, of courth, not counting your one hour lunch break from 12:00 to 1:00.”

“Of course,” Jenny said.

“Good. I’ll thee you two at 7:00 thomorrow morning.” The small man leaned back in his chair. “You are dithmithed.”

I smiled victoriously and marched out the door. Thank you!

*

 “Rose, wake up!” Jenny threw up the covers and shook me hard. “Rose, it’s almost 6:30. Wake up or we’re going to be late!”

“What?” I sat up with a start, and managed to knock Jenny in the head. Ugh. I lay back down.

“Ouch! Be careful where you swing that thing.” Jenny rubbed her forehead, a hint of a smile on her lips.

“Jenny! Why didn’t you get me up earlier?!” I moaned.

“I tried to, but you sleep like a log.” Jenny laughed and smoothed down her dress.

Ugh. She must have gotten up thirty minutes ago.

Jenny smiled and sashayed to the wardrobe. “What do you wish to wear today, m’lady? Shall we go with the pauper style?”

 I jumped out of bed and threw on a calico dress. “Help me button it!” My voice was half sleepy and half impatient. I can’t believe this. We can’t be late on our first day!

Jenny fumbled over the little buttons on the faded blue dress. “Be patient; I can’t when you’re so jittery,” she laughed, slapping my arm lightly.

“Sorry, but you’ve got to hurry. I can’t imagine what Mr. Jenkins will do to us if we’re late!” I tapped my foot. Oh, come on, Jenny. “Can’t you go any faster?”

Jenny turned me around and smirked. “Relax, Rose. We’ll get there on time.” She buttoned the top of the dress and patted my back. “And a good word never broke a tooth,” she added sternly.

“Thanks for helping me,” I sheepishly offered.

“You’re welcome. Now pull back your hair.” Jenny handed me a ribbon and opened the door. I smiled and pulled the comb through my tangled red locks.

“Are you two leaving?” I turned to see Annie sitting up in bed. Her hair was ruffled but she smiled slightly.

“Oh, good morning.” Jenny said softly. “You’re up early.”

“You woke me up by accident.”

“Sorry,” I cringed. “We have to leave, though. The factory opens in twenty minutes.”

“Oh. Have a good first day.” Annie smiled.

 *

“You girlth will be working right here.”

I dodged the rain of spit and tried to smile.

“Thith ith Ida Mann.” Mr. Jenkins grabbed the shoulder of a young colored girl, who looked about my age. “She’ll sthow you how the mathines operate. Ida,” Mr. Jenkins motioned to us and walked away.

“Hello, I’m Rosalyn Keegan and this is Jenny Moore. We’re from Ireland.” I smiled warmly.

“I know.” Ida said shortly, turning to the machine. “This is pretty simple. All you have to do is this.” Her hands wove the thread so quickly that all I could do was blink.

I tried to ignore her frosty glare and think positively. Oh, well, I’m sure I’ll get it sooner or later.

“Um, could you show us that again?” Jenny peered at the machine.

“What are you-blind?” Ida pouted.

I felt my blood heat up. What’s wrong with her? I frowned. She looked like one of the orphans in Ireland last summer who had been stung by a bee and someone asked her how she felt.

“There.” Ida wiped her hands on her dress when she finished. “Now that was the last time I’m going to show you. If you have any questions, ask someone else.” She turned on her heel and stomped away.

I stared at the loom with no idea what to do. This may be harder than I thought.

*

I sat on the windowsill and gazed outside. It had been such a long day.

“Rose, are your arms sore?” Jenny lay on my bed, staring up at the ceiling.

“Hmm?” I turned and smiled. “No, I’m perfect, as always.”

“You mean you’re not achy at all?”

“Of course not.” I rubbed my arm unconsciously. I looked down and quickly folded my hands.

“Lucky.” Jenny massaged the small of her back. “I feel like I got caught in a water mill and have been turning around and around between bars all day.” She laughed and limped over to where I sat. “What are you looking at?”

I motioned out the window. The moon hung from the sky like a big white gumdrop shining above us, peering through the storm clouds. Huge, dark buildings loomed in the distance. Smoke rolled out of chimney tops. Rain poured down, illuminated by the street lights below.

I sighed. “America. It’s so big, isn’t it? Aunt Catherine said that America is massive compared to Ireland.” I shivered. “It’s scary to think about it. This country goes on forever while Ireland seems so small and unimportant compared to it.”

Jenny sat down beside me. “It makes you feel humble. God made this world so huge but compared to it we’re tiny specks of dust. Someday we’ll die, and this world will go on; but no one will remember us.”

We looked at each other and I could feel teardrops forming in my eyes.  This isn’t like me. I looked away.

“Rose,” Jenny whispered, “I don’t know if now is the perfect time…but, are you ready to tell me about how your parents died?”

I was almost ready to say no. But the tightness in my chest stopped me. I squinted to find the big sea. It was no more than a thin line in the distance. I touched the windowpane. Icy cold. I pulled my fingers away. “There’s not much to say.” My voice was little more than a whisper. “My mother was a wealthy young lady. My father was a shoe maker. They fell in love, despite her parents’ wishes. Then she ran away with him. Her family disowned her.” I followed a raindrop with my finger. “My mother found out she was pregnant. My father left her. We lived alone until I was four. Then she died. Just like that, she was gone.” I let my hand fall. “I wasn’t even there. I don’t even know how she died. The people from the orphanage came to get me the next day, after my grandparents refused me.”

Jenny was silent. Well, she coughed a little.

I fought the tears running threatening to run down my cheeks. “I don’t remember her at all.” My voice broke.

Jenny reached out to touch my hand.

I ducked my head and wiped my eyes. “When I was a child,” I said softly, laughing a little. “I had a quite romantic attachment to this battered old grave in the orphanage’s cemetery, under a weeping willow tree. It must have been decades old: weathered and desolate, with no name or date written on its surface.” I smiled at the memory. “I’d dress in my black cotton dress and bring a pure white rose to adorn it with. And I’d cry and pray over the body within until my face was red and soggy.” I looked down. “In my dreams, that body always belonged to my mother,” I whispered.

“Was she a Christian?” Jenny said suddenly.

“What?”

“Was she a Christian? Aunt Catherine’s a Christian. She says that when they die they go to heaven.” Jenny looked genuinely curious, not at all like she was purposefully trying to provoke me.

I tried to hide the bitterness in my voice. “My mother was not a Christian.” I don’t think. “And neither am I. I don’t believe in God.” I felt a strangled wave of hot anger flash through me. “And if He is I hate him!” I burst out, choking down my tears.

“Lady, Honey…” Aunt Catherine stopped in the doorway. She glanced at the two of us and seemed to reconsider what she was about to say.

“Maybe I’d better go get the others and we’ll all say a prayer together before we go to bed.” She turned on her heel and left. “Sugar! Sweet pea!”

I bit my lip, ashamed of the words I’d blurted out. I didn’t really hate God, did I? I lifted my chin. No, because there is no God to hate.

Jenny smiled and pressed my hand. “I won’t tell anyone, Rose.”

About my parents or my problems? “Thank you.” I self-consciously rubbed my puffy eyes. “Why, look at us! Aunt Catherine must think we’re crazy.”

“You are crazy!”

I nudged her playfully, and she nudged me back.

Aunt Catherine came into the room again with Pattie and Annie. “Children,” she reprimanded with mock seriousness. “Let us settle down and pray.”

We soberly sat up, folded our hands, and bowed our heads. “Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

I looked around. Jenny was right about the Moores being a religious family. Even Annie and Pattie sat perfectly still, heads bowed and eyes closed. I looked down guiltily and closed my eyes.

“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

To be continued…

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Sunday Stories: Rose – Part Two

So it’s absolutely fitting that we’re reading a story about an Irish orphan on today, of all days. (Because it’s St. Pattie’s Day–duh!) I personally could care less about it being March 17th and all that, but it was kind of cool when I woke up to the sound of my dad blasting our old “Irish Tenors” cd and all I could think about out was how many times I played that on repeat when writing this novella. Kind of cool…

Anyway, if you need a refresher on the first chapter, you can find it here. Enjoy!

red curl

Chapter Two:

 

Ellis Island. “Isle of Tears.” I glanced at the Statue of Liberty curiously.

“Jenny!” I suddenly shouted as the tidal wave of people pushed me away from her. She grabbed Pattie and Annie with one hand, and with the other she reached out and clutched my threadbare coat. I turned and fought through the crowd to get back to them, holding my hat on with my spare hand. I’m beginning to think this is more dangerous than the boat.

“ORDERLY LINES!” someone bellowed.

Annie gave an uneasy laugh. “Jenny, the ocean has come on shore with us and is knocking us around.”

Jenny chuckled and glanced at me. “Aye.” She sweated nervously. “We all have to stick together.”

We? The word sent thrills down my back. I was part of a “we”. I nodded eagerly.

“Rose,” Jenny continued, “You make sure that nothing happens to Pattie. I’ll take care of Annie. Whatever happens, just stay right behind me and try not to get separated. If we do…”

A jab from somebody sent Jenny and Annie forward, leaving me and Pattie behind. I grabbed his hand and elbowed my way forward.

“I don’t need you to look after me!” Pattie shouted over the loud noise, trying to jerk free.

“Do you want to get left behind, taken away, and locked up in an orphanage all alone in a strange land?” I shouted back, rolling my eyes. I felt him squeeze my hand a little.

The noontime sun shone high, its heat pounding down on my back. I squirmed, my hair sticking to my neck.

We were shoved into a large brick building. I looked around and gawked. All around me were hundreds, maybe thousands, of immigrants, all arriving on different boats and speaking different languages.

The Americans pushed us into line and passed out letters to put on our coats and bags. Then we entered a massive room with dozens of lines of people. At the front of the line, men in white coats probed the immigrants and looked them over. Children screamed while mothers whispered frantically in strange languages. The two families in front of us were babbling away in what sounded like Polish and German. I leaned forward and tried to guess what they were saying. What a lovely trip, John. Yes, beautiful country, Mary. Such smart white coats these doctors wear here. Yes, Mary, they’re not terrifying at all.

Pattie gave my hand a little squeeze. I looked down at his dark hair and smiled.

After a few hours, the men in white coats finally got to us. “Name!” the sweaty doctor yelled, shining a bright light in my open mouth.

“Rothalyn Keegan.”  The words were difficult to say with cold steel on your tongue.

I flinched as he poked and prodded my body. “Where are you from? Can you read? Where are you going? Where’s your family? Have you ever been in jail?”

I nodded or shook my head after each question, holding my breath and praying for it to be over soon.

Finally he gave the four of us one last look-over before shoving us on. “Next!”

I heard a lady scream as her daughter was led away with an X on her coat.

Annie shivered. “I didn’t like him, Jenny.” She grabbed Jenny’s arm and clung to it. “His voice was mean.”

“Shhh. I know.”

Pattie’s mischievous smile upturned half of his mouth. “I came awfully close to telling him that if I wasn’t already insane he sure was going to make me,” he whispered.

I gave a surprised laugh. “Aye, Pattie. But be careful,” I whispered back, “Even little pigs have big ears.” I wiggled my eyebrows.

He smirked and I dared to ruffle his hair. I think that being with this family is the start of a great adventure.

We grabbed our bags and pushed open the door that lead to New York. My adventure was just beginning.

 *

 

Jenny brushed the dirt off her skirt and grabbed Annie’s hand as she stepped off the ferry. “Be careful, Annie. There are a lot of careless people here.” She glared at a man who had nearly run her over.

“I’ll say. Did you see that rude girl?” I asked. “She knocked me right off the ground and didn’t even apologize about it.” My blood boiled.

Jenny raised an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t have thought that you of all people would be concerned about being knocked over. You seem to be in the practice of it yourself.”

I held my hands out sheepishly. “Will you ever let me free of that one little incident? It was a mistake.”

Jenny smiled forgivingly. “Besides, maybe she was in a hurry. We don’t know what her reason could be.”

I shrugged. She didn’t seem very sorry about it.

“Besides,” Jenny continued, “Why worry about what’s already happened?” She turned to Pattie. “Pattie, would you….” He was in complete awe. Jenny tapped him teasingly. “Patrick, what is it?”

“Look at it all,” he whispered.

I turned.

It was so big. The buildings seemed to extend forever, nearly touching the sky. A smelly, black fog covered the air with a thick blanket. People bustled everywhere, bumping into each other and talking loudly. Dirty children ran barefoot down the alleys, and pale men sat on the corners.

I gawked up at New York City. This is America, the beautiful?

“What does it look like?” Annie asked.

“Um, it’s very crowded,” Patrick stammered, looking at us for guidance.

“I can hear that. But what does it look like?”

My head was racing. “Well, I’ve certainly seen things more…attractive,” I offered pitifully.

“It’s sort of dirty,” Jenny bit her lip. “There are a lot of children running through the streets, and, well, poor men sitting on the corners with tin cans in their laps.” She took a deep breath. “There’s a giant building in the distance and it’s making smoke as dark as death. It’s not as lovely as Ireland, Annie.”

Annie bent her head.

“Don’t worry, Annie,” I said brightly, “Nothing can be as pretty as Ireland! You know that.” I tousled her hair.

Jenny smiled at me gratefully. “Aye,” she continued, “And no use crying over something we can’t change. We might as well find Aunt Catherine and Uncle Gerald.” She turned and laughed. “Why, there’s Aunt Catherine now!” She waved at her aunt and grabbed Annie’s arm.

Patrick frowned. “What’s wrong with her?” he muttered.

Their Aunt Catherine stood about twenty yards from us. She wrung her hands and dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. She wasn’t very beautiful; but she was certainly grand; with a sort of motherly look about her. Her hair was turning gray and her green eyes had begun to fade. Her body bulged here and there, and a few wrinkles graced her face.

She must have been very pretty when she was younger. I looked her over carefully as we rushed across the streets. Now she looks more like the aunt that parents warn their children about: Don’t eat too many sweets, be sure to go to bed on time, wash your hands whenever you’re done playing outside; and above all: Don’t listen to your aunt when she tells you otherwise. I chuckled a little under my breath.

“Children,” Aunt Catherine cried in a strange accent when they were closer. “Oh, children, come give your Aunt Catherine a hug!” She spread out her arms and enveloped the children in an embrace, crying freely. “Oh, you’ve all gotten so big! I haven’t seen you, Jenny, since you were six years old. You’ve grown into such a beautiful young lady!” She wiped her eyes and hugged Jenny again. “It’s so wonderful to see you again, Lady.” Lady?

“Aunt Catherine’s from the South,” Jenny whispered to me once she was free. “Uncle Gerald is from Ireland.”

That explained the funny accent.

Aunt Catherine turned and faced Pattie. “And is this handsome young man our little baby Patrick?” she drawled. He shrugged his shoulders, dodging her glance. “Well, sugar, aren’t you going to give your Aunt Catherine a hug?” She held out her arms expectantly.

“No,” he replied. Jenny kicked him in the shins, but he remained sullen.

“Oh.” A shadow crossed Aunt Catherine’s face, but she quickly turned to Annie. “And who is this pretty young thing? This couldn’t be Annie, the beautiful little girl I heard about?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Annie curtsied in the direction of Aunt Catherine’s voice.

“Why she’s just a little doll now, isn’t she?” Aunt Catherine gave Annie a little squeeze. “I believe that you and I are going to become very good friends, sweet pea.”

“Aunt Catherine loves nicknames,” Jenny whispered again. I hid my smile.

Aunt Catherine turned away. “Come along, children. I suppose I’ll take you to my home—if you could call it that. When I grew up, in the South, a house was a home…” They began to walk away from me chattering.

I longingly watched them take a few steps before sighing to myself. Well, I suppose I’ll have to find someplace to start anew. I turned and looked around.

Suddenly, Jenny was at my side. “I’m so sorry, Rose. I completely forgot about you.” She grabbed my elbow and pulled me to her aunt. “I want you to meet Aunt Catherine.” She presented me and smiled widely.

Aunt Catherine straightened and peered down at me. “Who is this?”

“Rose Keegan, miss.” I curtsied.

“We met her on the boat,” Jenny explained. “And I figured her curls complimented my brown hair quite well, so, for vain reasons, I decided to keep her around.” She smiled at me teasingly.

Aunt Catherine looked me up and down. “Well, she is very beautiful. I’m not sure about that red hair, though. Have you got a terribly feisty temper, dear?” She paused and raised an eyebrow at me. My skin flushed. She smiled, satisfied, and gave me a hug as well. “Well, that pretty blush just gives it all away. I do believe that you and I will get along together quite well, honey.”

I smiled at Jenny.  I like her already. 

“So where are you going to stay, honey?” Aunt Catherine pulled away and beamed at me.

“I…I don’t know. I ran away from the orphanage in Ireland.”

Aunt Catherine’s eyes softened and she took my hand. “I was an orphan, too, honey. But I never did run away, though. Guess I never got the courage. Never was a gutsy girl; though you wouldn’t know it now.” She winked cheekily. “So what made you do it?”

I froze. “I…I just decided that I needed to leave.” Why do all these people ask so many questions?

Aunt Catherine looked a bit confused, but she brightened quickly. “Well then, honey, I guess you’ll have to stay with us. If Lady trusts your character, than so do I.” She held my hand and Annie’s and gazed at us all tenderly.

“Oh, that’s okay. I’ll just rent out a place somewhere. I don’t know how long I’ll be staying in New York, anyway.”

“Nonsense,” Aunt Catherine shook her head. “You must stay with us. I insist on it.”

It was no use arguing with her. I tried to smile happily.

“How old are you?” Aunt Catherine continued.

“Eighteen.”

“Ah, Lady’s age! It will be good for her, having someone else her age to talk with.” She stroked Jenny’s hair affectionately. “I know, when I was a girl—”

Jenny rolled her eyes at me. “Well, Aunt Catherine,” she teased, “When will Uncle Gerald be coming to see us?”

Aunt Catherine suddenly burst into tears. “Oh, Gerald!” she sobbed, holding her hand to her mouth.

Oh, no. What’s wrong now? Pattie and I shared a questioning glance. I shrugged. I don’t know.

“Aunt Catherine, what’s wrong?” Jenny asked gently.

Her aunt’s shoulders shook. “Gerald died last week,” she whispered, “I…I meant not to tell you. To let you be happy for the first few moments of your new life. But then you said his name and…” She let out a snivel and wiped her eyes, throwing back her head dramatically. “I’m afraid…he…he went to the factory to work and….and,” She broke into sobs again. We stared at her silently.

“Aunt Catherine, you must be joking.” Jenny said; but she wrapped her arms around her aunt.

“It’s no joke, Lady!” Aunt Catherine bawled, “There was a terrible accident at the factory and he didn’t survive. Everything’s gone wrong since then. Some awful men came to my house yesterday and said that if I didn’t give them all the money that Gerald owed them by next week, they’d kick me out and sell my house!”

Somewhere, from a distant ally, I heard screams. I frowned. What is this terrible country?

Pattie and Annie glanced at me, confused.

“Oh, Lady, it was so much money!” Aunt Catherine continued dramatically. “I’d planned not to tell you just yet. I wanted you to enjoy at least one day in America happily. I don’t even know why God brought you from Ireland, only to kill you here!”

“We’re all going to die,” Jenny whispered, and wrapped herself up in Aunt Catherine’s arms. Annie’s eyes began to water, and even Pattie rubbed his face on his shirt.

Suddenly, the bubble burst and all four of them burst out in tears.

A gust of smog filled the air, and I began to cough. Oh, for heavens sakes! Can’t anyone here think logically instead of bawling their eyes out? “Listen here!” I shouted, surprised to hear my voice sounding so cross and firm. I shook my head to clear it and continued, “Look at you! This is ridiculous! This is America, Jenny! America, Pattie! Have you no pride? No vision? The land of opportunity!” I took a deep breath. “Surely it can’t be so hard to find a job for Jenny and me, Miss Catherine.”

Aunt Catherine sniffed. “Jobs?” she whimpered.

“Oh, for the love of Pete!” I rolled my eyes.

“Jobs!” Aunt Catherine grew excited. “That’s it! Children, I have come up with the perfect answer! Lady,” She took Jenny by the shoulders and beamed, “You and Rose will get jobs in a factory!” She glanced at me. “Oh, and call me ‘Aunt Catherine’, honey.”

*

“So this is your house?” I looked around the small apartment. The walls were bare, and there was no furniture except for a small table, chair, and a bed. Jenny had a frozen smile on her face. I couldn’t blame her; the orphanage was looking luxurious.

“Yes,” Aunt Catherine lit a lamp sheepishly. “There are two beds upstairs, though. I think maybe one of you should sleep with me, one should bunk with Sweet Pea, and my Sugar will sleep alone.”

“Stop calling me ‘Sugar’,” Patrick mumbled, glaring and dodging her touch. I almost choked on the laugh I was trying to hold in. Why was everything so funny all of the sudden?

“Pattie,” Jenny whispered. There was fire in her eyes.

If one more person talks I solemnly believe the floodgates will burst and I’ll end up laughing hysterically and shaming myself to the ends of the country.

“Well, you know the old proverb: a cabin with plenty of food is better than a hungry castle. I’ll sleep with Annie upstairs.” My voice squeaked slightly. I smiled and pushed a stand of red hair behind my ear.

“I knew you’d agree, Honey.” Aunt Catherine said pleasantly.

Jenny frowned. “Do you think that those men you were referring to will give us a little extra time to make that money?”

“I don’t know, Lady,” Aunt Catherine shrugged. “Maybe you and Honey should go down there tomorrow and see.”

“Is that okay with you, Rose?”

“Aye,” I tossed my head carelessly. “Who could say no to me?”

Jenny giggled and nudged me playfully. We climbed up the stairwell, laughing.

“Sweet pea,” I heard Aunt Catherine say to Annie, “Those two are going to become the best of friends.”

 

To be continued…


Sunday Stories: Rose – Part One

So this new addition of Sunday Stories is really dear to me. It’s the first ever novella I wrote, way back when I was about twelve or thirteen, I think? I’m pretty sure it dates back to 2008 but I’m not entirely sure. Anyway, I used to have a really affection for Irish culture for some reason, and I thought nothing was more beautiful and romantic than an utterly clichéd story about a red-headed Irish orphan. *cringe* Hey, at least I can laugh about it now!

Anyway, I’ll post a chapter a week every Sunday until it’s all finished! And then you all can decide if this is a good story, or a cute attempt of a thirteen-year-old girl to write something sentimental and sweet. I love hearing your comments, so comment away!

red curl

 

Chapter One:

 

Ireland, 1901

My heart raced as I leaned against the cold, brick wall. I crept down the stairs, carpetbag in hand, hugging the wall. Creak. An old, worn step groaned. I held my breath. Did anyone hear?

A few seconds confirmed that no one had. Silently, I tiptoed down the hall and paused at the door. Should I go through with it?

I could feel my heart pounding as I pulled the key I’d swiped from Mrs. Brown out of my apron pocket and unlocked the door. Noiselessly, I snuck out and ran down the road to the rickety gate. I pushed it open and ventured out into the realm of freedom.

My steps left footprints in the dusty road; each step leading a little closer to the dream of being free. I closed my eyes and savored the feel of the moonlit autumn breeze.

I turned and looked at the old orphanage one last time. The iron gates closed with a loud creak. I tossed my dark red hair and stamped my foot, sending up a cloud of sand from the Irish path. Who’s laughing now? “Ha! Ha! Ha! Me!” I grabbed my bag and ran. I skipped down the road, swinging my bag and giggling hysterically. I’d never felt so carefree and happy.

I knew the way down the road in the dark, climbing over the short stone wall and brushing dust off my cotton dress.

I needed to escape. I’d lived in the orphanage for as long as I could remember. Years of sorrow, pain, and forgotten memories surrounded me.  

I paused at the bend and reached into my skirt pocket. Eighteen years didn’t amount to much, but the money was enough to get me out.

America.

That was the only thought that had been resounding in my head for the past three weeks. Ever since I snuck out during Easter service to barter for my passport.

I continued to make my way in the moonlight, the dew dampening my dress.

America.

Finally free, I reached the dirt road and pranced down it to the boating dock.

 

 *

The dock was unusually crowded the next morning. “Um, excuse me,” I clutched my bag close to my chest, “Can anyone help me?” A bump in the shoulder was all I got in response. More than a little upset, I glared at the offender’s back. “Excuse me!” Silence. Frustrated, I stomped my foot in an angry huff.

“You there!” A man with a thick red beard suddenly grabbed my arm. “Let me see your passport.” My arm ached but I managed to grab my passport and show it to him.

“Here.” My heart pounded. I placed a hand on my chest, willing it to slow down.

He snatched the passport and examined it quickly. “You’re good to go.” He ripped the money out of my hand and shoved a ticket in its place. I was pushed onto the boat, in the midst of hundreds of anxious people.

“Watch it!” A lady shouted, shoving me out of her way.

I stuck my tongue out at her back. Childish, Rose, I chided myself instantly, straightening my back and trying to politely push through the crowd.

I’m not quite sure how, but I ended up on the south deck, facing Ireland’s rolling green hills. Before I knew it, the boat was pushing off at an alarming rate. I gripped the railing and turned away. I might never see it again. The thought echoed through my mind.

I looked around the deck and paused, trying to sort through my thoughts amid the buzz. There were so many—young and old, some rich and most poor.

Just as I was observing the lack of other redheads on deck, someone shoved me violently from the side, sending me off balance. I stumbled into a young lady standing by the side of the ship. “Oof!” My weight pushed the girl onto the ground, and I landed ungracefully on top of her.

“Oh, my!” The young lady whispered under her breath, trying to lift her head. “Am I under attack?”

I frowned at her, quite alarmed. She seemed about my age, with long dark hair and milky white skin. Humor twinkled in her big brown eyes.

The girl was very calm and collected, even after being knocked to the ground.

The very opposite of me: a tall, skinny girl with dark red curls and bright green eyes. She looked composed and unruffled; I was wild and fiery.

I scrambled to my feet, and then helped the girl regain her posture. I took a quick glance around. The sight of two young ladies in a heap on deck had drawn a great deal of attention.

“I’m very sorry,” the young lady began.

“Oh, no, I’m sorry,” I interrupted, “That was very, very clumsy of me. I hope you’ll forgive me.” Oh, I must be a sight. I touched my disheveled hair and placed my bag on the ground.

The girl raised an eyebrow.  “It’s no problem, miss.” With a final amused grin, she turned back into the crowd, grabbing the hands of a young boy and girl.

Watching them leave, I felt little bit of my initial excitement deflate. Nonetheless, I held my chin up and looked around for help. An important-looking man leisurely leaned against the wall on the far side of the deck. I made my way to him. “Excuse me, sir. Do you know where I’m supposed to sleep?”

The man briefly tipped up his hat to look at me before putting it back in place and closing his eyes.“In the cabin with all the other women and children, I suppose.” He grunted and folded his arms, obviously intent upon sleeping.

I waited for him to continue, rocking back and forth on my heels. Realizing he’d dozed off again, I said loudly, “Um, would you please tell me where that is?” I gave him my most dazzling smile, but he didn’t seem to notice. This is awkward. I resisted the urge to lean in close and tilt up his hat to see if he was even awake. After a few moments, I cleared my throat and repeated the question.

He sighed and looked at his wristwatch. “Really, sometimes I haven’t the slightest idea what you Irish people are saying. Could you please repeat the sentence?” He folded his arms and settled back against the wall. But at least this time he was watching me.

I took a deep breath and slowly repeated, through gritted teeth, “Would you please tell me where that is?”

“Where what is?”

I groaned. “The cabin!”

He sighed. “Here we go again,” he muttered.

“Ugh!” I stamped my foot.  I strangled down the urge to stand on tip-toe and shout the question into his ear.

“I think she’s asking where the sleeping quarters are.” A voice with only a slight Irish accent spoke out from behind me. I turned to find the dark haired lady smiling at me.

The man nodded briskly. “Just to your right, down those stairs.” He licked his lips and returned to his nap.

I made a face at him, childish or not, before turning to thank the girl. “How could…” To my horror, she was already walking away.

At the sound of my voice, though, she turned to me expectantly.

What now? “I, uh, didn’t introduce myself back there. I’m Rosalyn Keegan, but you can call me Rose.” I smiled and extended my hand, hoping the introduction was enough to start a conversation.

Slowly she shook it, her dark eyes glancing over me curiously. “I’m Jenny Moore, and these are my siblings, Annie and Patrick. But you can call Patrick ‘Pattie’.” She motioned to the children standing to her right. The young boy looked about fourteen or fifteen and reasonably healthy, but the girl was hardly more than a breath of air. She clutched Jenny’s hand and smiled over my head.

I frowned before realization hit me. Oh, she’s blind. I straightened and tried to grin. “Well, now that we’re acquainted I’m sure we’ll all be good friends.” The boy named Patrick was glaring at me. I cleared my throat nervously. “Once again, I’m very sorry about my careless blunder. This ship is something, I tell you! People everywhere, not looking where they’re going or what they’re doing. Someone’s going to get hurt!” I said in a rush. “Well, I mean, you almost got hurt, but…” Almost immediately, I felt my face flush. Oh, I did it again!

“Aye,” Jenny said quietly.

Did she agree that someone would get hurt, or that she was nearly harmed? I wrung my hands in despair.

Unsure whether or not she desired my company, I lingered a little longer, saying a few commonplace things and feeling like a fool. When will I learn to be graceful and quiet? “Well,” I finally said, picking my bag back up, “I suppose I should go and see the cabins.”

“We’ll come along.” Jenny grabbed her siblings’ hands and led the way.

I felt my heart racing as I fell in step behind them. Does she want to be friends? I bit my lip to suppress the large smile spreading across my face.

 

 *

 

The cabin had the worst stench ever. Even after being on the ship for two days I couldn’t get used to the smell.

“Ugh,” I rolled over on the bunk and looked at Jenny lying next to me. She stared up at the ceiling silently, holding her own stomach. “Can we go get some air?” My voice came out as a squeak. I made a face at her pleadingly.

“Aye, we need it! Annie, Pattie, come on.” Jenny sat up and climbed down the ground.

I shook the dirt off my dress and grabbed Annie’s hand. “Come on.” She smiled in my direction and I felt my heart flutter.

We pushed past the passengers crowding the deck and made our way to the railing.

The breeze felt so wonderful. I clutched at the rail and closed my eyes, feeling almost all my nausea vaporize. I took a deep breath. The wind danced around me, teasing my hair and tickling my skin. Rose, it seemed to whisper. Slowly, I opened my eyes, the vast blue ocean surrounding me coming into focus.

The sea seemed to stretch on forever and ever; the most wonderful, majestic thing created, swallowing us up in its greatness. I felt so small and unimportant beside it.

I sighed and closed my eyes again, suddenly feeling lonely and unprotected.

“So,” Jenny asked, “What makes you wish to travel to America?”

I started at her voice, blushing yet again. I’d forgotten anyone else was there. I tried to smile. “Um, well…” I twisted a fat curl, turning back to the scenery. “I ran away.” Did she notice the squeak in my voice?

Annie frowned. “Why?” She reached over and felt for my hand. I took hers and gave it a little squeeze.

“I used to live in an orphanage. You can’t imagine how terrible orphanages are.”

Pattie crossed his arms. “I don’t want to.” He glared at me.

“Pattie!” Jenny exclaimed, boxing his ears lightly. “A good word never broke a tooth,” she whispered to him fiercely. She looked up and gave me an embarrassed smile. “Our father died of cholera years ago, when Annie was only a baby. We moved to England for a few years, before coming back to Ireland to start anew. But the famine hit, and took Lucy, Martha, and Marianne. Our Aunt Catherine, who lives in New York, wrote Mama and sent the money for our passes. By the time the tickets came, Mama was gone, too. I guess we came too close to being in an orphanage for comfort.” She took Annie’s other hand and leaned back on the rail. “How did your parents die?”

I frowned and gazed over the wide sea. Twice I opened my mouth to answer only to shut it. “It’s…It happened so long ago…I’m not sure I remember. I have a terrible memory.” I tried to wave my hand in an offhand way, furiously fighting the tears in my eyes. It hurt too much to tell the truth. What was I supposed to say? “I don’t know how my mother died”?

“Oh,” Jenny blushed this time. “I’m sorry. I wish I hadn’t asked you.”

I waved a hand carelessly, still not trusting myself to look at her without crying. “Do you…” I stopped to gulp and bite my lip, “Do you ever wish that there was a heaven on earth that you could go to whenever you need to get away? Whenever you feel like the whole world is piling on top of you and you just can’t stand it anymore?” I finally glanced her way.

She smiled faintly. “Maybe it’s called America.”

 

 *

 

The ship jolted in the rolling storm. I closed my eyes and tried to calm my churning stomach, pinching my nose to wipe out the horrid smell.

Candles had been snuffed for fear of fire, leaving the cabin dark and quiet. Softly moaning mothers and children rolled around gagging.

The storm had been going on for a full day now. I hadn’t had a breath of fresh air since the night before last.

Annie groaned beside me and vomited into a small bucket. I sighed. I had thrown up so much the past few days that I was only dry-heaving by now. Annie lay back down and grabbed my hand. “Jenny,” she whispered, “When will it be over?”

“I—” The ship gave a tremendous jolt. I moaned and reached for the bucket.

“Soon,” Jenny began, “I think—“

Suddenly, the cabin door burst open. A flash of lightning illuminated the sky behind the figure in the doorway. “Man overboard!” The sailor cried. “All stay below deck!” He leaped away from the cabin, slamming the door behind him.

I shot up and ran to the doorway, jumping over the sick children lying on the floor. I stood on the tips of my toes and looked through the peephole.

The deck was filled with water. In the flashes of lightning, I could see seaweed and fish sliding across the floor. Sailors rushed about, sliding and falling on the wet wood, apparently blinded by the stinging wind, as they rushed lug ropes to the railing.

I craned my neck and shouted commentary over my shoulder. “There’s a bit of a mess out there! They’re reaching over the edge of the deck—Oh! They’ve got someone! They’re pulling him up!”

The rude red-headed sailor was being hauled over the edge of the railing by crew-men. Thunder roared behind him as the crew pulled up another person, a young boy, who must have been thrown overboard first. The boy shivered as the crew threw some blankets on him and pushed the two towards the cabins. I saw him smile shyly at the red-headed man. The man looked down gruffly, but gave the boy a friendly little shove.

“They’re all perfectly dandy,” I announced to the cabin, making my way back to my bed in the dark. I climbed in next to Annie and stroked her hair. “Goodnight,” I whispered, “Tomorrow will be a better day.”

 

 *

 

“Hurry up,” Jenny giggled, pushing me up the stairs.

“I’m trying,” I snapped back, bounding up them as quickly as I could. We all stopped and stared when we reached the top deck. Pattie was the first to recover, hollering and running to the railing. I laughed and chased after him, grabbing the edge and craning my neck.

America. I could see it before us, a wide streak on the horizon. If I squinted hard enough, I could just make out the buildings and factories in the distance.

“America,” Jenny whispered.

“I’m going to buy myself an American flag and hang it from my window,” I said excitedly.

Pattie jumped up and down. “I’m going to learn how to play baseball!” His eyes sparkled.

Annie wrinkled her nose happily. “I’m going to memorize all the words to Yankee Doodle.”

“And I’m going to knit a red, white, and blue blanket,” Jenny said.

I smiled at her and jumped up to see if I could catch a glance of the Statue of Liberty. “Tomorrow,” I said excitedly, “We’ll be on dry land in America.”

 

To be continued….


Sunday Stories – Sleeping Beauty: Epilogue!!!

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you probably read my post explaining that my flight home from Seattle was cancelled and I had to stay another day, keeping me from being able to finish typing out my “Sleeping Beauty” story until this morning. So sorry about that! I really did want to have it posted on Sunday, but I left my notebook at home thinking I’d be back to finish it Sunday afternoon. And then OF COURSE Chicago decided to pour down buckets of freezing rain and absolutely trap me in my new favorite city for an extra twenty-four hours. Darn! 😉 (I am, of course, not upset at all and was in fact thrilled to stay an extra day in Seattle!)

Anyway, here is the epilogue for the “Sleeping Beauty” story. It’s short and sweet, but I think it nicely wraps everything up with a nice little bow on top. It still amazes me how much you all have been enjoying this, and now I’m torn as to what story to start posting next! I guess you’ll have to wait until Sunday to figure out…

Meanwhile, I have lots of pictures to post this week! And some that I think you will find especially interesting include lots of great shots of me and my newest friend Elaini from www.misselainious.com. I’m just bursting at the seams to share them with you–It’s such a wonderful, God-story to tell! 🙂

Enjoy!

Fairy tale

Epilogue:

We were married the next morning. I had the tailor refit my old lace gown so I could wear it on my special day. Daniel said I never looked prettier.

We moved to the seaside castle and made it our own. A few months later, Hannah and Prince Carl were wed. Prince Carl declared that he’d loved Hannah all along, but hadn’t realized it until I was taken. Some may have been skeptical, but Hannah was just glad she won her Prince Charming.

Daniel and I had many children, all with my dark curls and his blue eyes. They enjoyed climbing trees and making faces at our guests. We liked to say they got it from us.

Flora got promoted to official nurse of all castle children. She liked to call herself the “Official Playmate”.

In their old age, Mother and Father handed over the throne to Daniel and I, and spent the rest of their days as joyful grandparents. Who were surprisingly around for most of the time.

So with joy, happiness, and love forever more, we all lived happily ever after.

The end!!!


(Tuesday???) Stories: Sleeping Beauty – Part Eleven

Yes, I’m late this week. But I had a crazy weekend, so I’m using that as my excuse. Also, in case you haven’t heard yet, I’m headed to Seattle this weekend to sign books at the ALA Conference!!!! 😀 So obviously I’m way busy. You know, keeping up with the life of a best selling novelist and all. 😛

Anyway, this is the end of the “Sleeping Beauty” series. Can you believe it??? Well, plus an epilogue next week. No idea what made 12-year-old me decide to end the story so abruptly, but maybe it had something to do with the fact that this was the first and only kissing scene I’ve ever written (hello! It’s “Sleeping Beauty”!) and I may have felt awkward and decided to cut it off. Not sure.

But I hope you enjoy! And if you want to stroll back down memory lane of this story, check out the old installments here.

Fairy tale

Chapter Eight:

Prince Carl won archery, speed, and, believe it or not, dancing. It was evident that he was going to win. One by one, depressed princes saddled up their horses and rode away. Prince Carl was by far Mother’s favorite, and had mastered every sport. The only thing left for him to conquer was my heart. And boy, did he try.

On the night before the last tournament, Prince Carl and I sat before the fire as he tried to woo me. Mother, Hannah, and Daniel played cards nearby, by I could tell they were all watching us.

Prince Carl kissed my hand. “You look very beautiful in the firelight, Valerie. May I call you Valerie?”

“Yes!” Mother called out.

Prince Carl smiled. “Then you may call me Carl. Tell me, Valerie, who do you wish to win tomorrow? It will be your seventeenth birthday, and the curse will be over. It never had to be broken.”

No one. “Oh, I don’t know, Prince—I mean—Carl.”

He leaned closer. “Well, I hope it shall be me, and I hope I have captured the heart of the most precious jewel ever crafted.”

Daniel grunted. I moved away from the prince and looked over at him. His face was a storm. I wanted to wipe away the anger from his brow. My fingers itched to smooth his hair and make him smile.

Prince Carl turned me to him and grinned. He began to lean in. I glanced at Mother, who was smiling at us. Hannah sighed wistfully at the handsome prince about to kiss me. But Daniel’s eyes met mine. There was sorrow there—a sort of sadness. I felt my heart crumple as the prince closed his eyes and pulled me to him.

No! I didn’t want to kiss him! But I couldn’t push him away. Mother would kill me if I did. I closed my eyes and braced myself. Softly, the prince’s lips brushed mine. Then more firmly. He pulled away slowly and grinned.

I looked down. Let him think I was blushing. I couldn’t let him see my hot tears of anger. I felt like a china doll! Mother sold me off to a man I hardly knew and made me kiss him unwillingly. And in front of Daniel!

A soft knock sounded at the door. A sweet elderly maid limped in, pushing a tray of food. “A nighttime snack for the lovebirds?”

“Oh, yes!” Mother clapped her hands. “It’s been a most wondrous night! Let us end it nicely.”

The maid passed out apples to everyone. “Here,” she said, enclosing an apple in my hand. “This will help heal your pain, your highness,” she whispered.

I wiped my eyes and grabbed the apple. I opened my mouth and took a big, juicy bite. Mmmm…

Suddenly, the room began spinning. The maid cackled. Mother screamed. I saw the old woman vanish right before I crumpled in a heap on the ground.

*

I spun around and around. Colors danced before me. Blue, purple, black. The old maid’s face loomed in front of me. It grew and grew, surrounding me. “Ha, ha, ha!” It began to change. It looked younger, prettier. The skin began to purple as the wrinkles were wiped away. Her eyes shown with hatred. Malkaka. The witch!

She began to chase me. I ran and ran, but I couldn’t get away. All I could do was keep running. A cliff! I screamed. There was a burst of light. And then darkness.

*

I was in bed. I tried to open my eyes but they wouldn’t open. I couldn’t move!

I heard voices around me. “It’s the curse.” Mother. She sobbed out loud. “How can it be broken?” Prince Carl. I hated him. “Her true love has to kiss her.” Daniel. “That’s you, Carl!” Hannah. “You kissed her last night!”

Last night? And I’d only just awoken. Only, I guess I wasn’t really awake. I couldn’t lift my head or open my eyes.

“Yes, Carl.” Mother again. “Kiss her! Wake her up!”

He cleared his throat. A moment later, his lips touched mine. I tried to wiggle my toes. Nothing happened.

He tried more urgently. Again and again.

“Enough!” Mother shouted. “That fool fairy Faulina’s gift didn’t work.”

“Unless…” Hannah’s voice sounded thoughtful. “Unless Prince Carl isn’t her true love!”

“Well, who else could it be?” Mother sounded annoyed. “Don’t tell me I’m going to have to let every prince in the kingdom come and kiss my daughter.”

“What if he’s not a prince?” Hannah sounded excited.

There was silence for a moment. Then Daniel. “Don’t look at me like that! I’m not her true love.”

Flora! “You don’t love Valerie, sweet?”

He sounded uncertain. “Well, I do love her. I’ve always loved her, ever since I saw her climb that giant tree when she was ten. But I’m not her true love.”

“What makes you think so?” Flora’s voice was reassuring. “Are you afraid she doesn’t love you back? Valerie loves you, sweet. You’re the only boy she’s ever talked about. Just look at how she watches you. You can’t tell me you’ve never seen it in her eyes.”

I did love him. With all my heart I loved him. I wanted to sing it out. I wanted everyone to know! I wanted Daniel to know. I wanted to love him forever.

“I agree with Flora,” Hannah said. “Valerie’s always talking about you. Didn’t you see how she was looking at you last night?”

Daniel must have still been hesitant, for I heard Mother whisper, “Please Daniel. Please, just kiss her.”

Everything was silent. Then I could feel his breath fluttering on my cheek. My heart pounded. Then it happened. His lips finally found mine.

My eyelashes fluttered. My hands flew up and grabbed Daniel’s collar as I breathed in deeply. Air. I was awake!

I opened my eyes and found myself staring into Daniel’s blue ones. He smiled slowly. I beamed back. Then I reached up and kissed him again. I’d never felt so alive.

“Harold,” I heard Mother say to a duke, “Valerie’s going to need a wedding dress. Soon.”

Stay tuned for epilogue….


Sunday Stories: Sleeping Beauty – Part Ten

And here it is, the eagerly anticipated second part of the seventh chapter! (Whew, that was a mouthful! Why do blog entries have to be so short and make me keep chopping up my chapters? Seriously.)

I’m so loving sharing this story with all of you, and I’m going to be so sad when it’s over! 😦 I’m already trying to decide what story I want to share next… I have a few in mind!

As always, if you need to catch up, here are the last few installments of this lovely little story I wrote way back in 2008, when I was twelve.

Fairy tale

Chapter Seven, Cont’d

The next day my plan was set to action. Mother dolled me up, letting little curls fall from my bun and dabbing perfume on my neck. But she couldn’t wipe away the mischievous gleam from my eye.

As soon as Mother excused herself from the breakfast table I pretended to get sleepy. The princes watched with a mixture of surprise and horror as I yawned and stretched in public. One prince said something funny and I made sure my laugh was the loudest and my snort distinct. Daniel, who was standing behind his prince, laughed longer than anyone when he heard it.

Then Mother re-entered and I was a perfect doll again. Tiny sips, dainty smiles, and polite giggles. The princes frowned in confusion as Mother beamed. Inside, I beamed, too.

*

The first prince contest I watched was horseback riding. I sat in my chair, exasperated. It was ridiculous! How could having the fastest horse make someone suitable to be my true love and Caledonia’s next king?

I saw Daniel standing nearby, shading his eyes from the burning sun in order to watch.

“You there! Servant boy!” I called to him. No one but Hannah would recognize him anyway.

His eyes lit with amusement when he saw me calling him. Obediently, he came. “Yes, your highness?”

“Fan me.” I said as haughtily as I could. I turned to the other servants in my viewing box. “You may leave.”

Once they had all filed out, Daniel threw down the fan. “Fan me?” he mimicked with a grin.

I smiled back. “How was my performance at breakfast?”

He bowed. “Marvelous, I must say.” Then he leaned against the box’s wall. “Prince Carl was confused, that’s for sure.”

“Is he the one with the black hair and blue eyes that you’re always standing behind?”

Daniel shrugged. “Yeah, that’s him. He’s not that bad, though. He’s actually really smart, especially at arithmetic.”

I grinned teasingly. “Hmmm… He is good-looking. Maybe I should be pulling for him.”

I expected Daniel to laugh. Instead his eyebrows knotted together somewhat fiercely. “I have to go.” He began to turn.

“Wait.” I stood and grabbed his sleeve.

He turned abruptly. “Yes?”

We stood together, face to face. I opened my mouth to say something, then shut it. I had to tilt my face up to look him in the eye, he had grown so tall. He squinted at the sun shining in his clear blue eyes and raised an eyebrow at me. My hand was still on his arm.

I pulled it off as if I was on fire and stuck it behind me. “It was just a joke,” I stammered. “You don’t have to go.”

He shrugged and walked over to the edge of my box to watch the race in silence.

I sat down in my seat, confused. I was glad he couldn’t see the range of emotions having their own race across my face. Why did my stomach feel so fluttery? It’s just Daniel.

The winning horse flew over the finish line. Everyone cheered and stomped their feet. “And the winner is… Prince Carl of Moravia!” Mother nodded approvingly as the handsome prince waved to everyone.

Daniel turned to me. “They’re bringing him here to present to you.”

“Oh,” I frantically stuck a handful of grapes in my mouth.

“Your highness,” the duke motioned for the young prince to bow. “Prince Carl of Moravia.”

Mother turned to say something to a servant. This was my chance! I gave a little curtsy, but managed to stumble a bit. Then I smiled at him with a mouth full of grapes.

He wrinkled his nose.

Hah! Victory for Valerie!

Then he gave me a charming smile. “I hope to achieve the honor of your hand and kiss, your highness.” He bowed again.

I swallowed the grapes. Daniel grunted. Mother beamed.

Inside, I screamed.

To be continued…


Sunday Stories: Sleeping Beauty – Part Nine

Aaaaannnddd… I’m on time this week!!! 🙂 Yep, I found time today to type up the first part of Chapter Seven, which, believe it or not, is a very long chapter. But I think you ladies (and men???) are going to love where the story takes you this week… I’ll just hush up already so you can enjoy it. 😉

Fairy tale

Chapter Seven

“Oh my goodness, what should you wear?”

It was 4:30 in the morning and Mother was pushing through my newly-arrived trunks like a wild hen. “Does the lace gown I gave you a few years ago still fit?”

I yawned and stretched, rolling over in bed. “Hardly.”

Mother frowned. It was odd to see her in her dressing gown instead of a lavish dress. Sometimes it was hard to imagine that the queen, mother or not, was a normal person.

Mother pulled out a light yellow gown with short, puffy sleeves and a long train. The bodice of the ballgown was laced with glittering diamond specks.

I already knew that gown was itchy. I had tried it on only once, to wear to a neighboring kingdom’s ball, but I had to fake a headache and sneak out early so I could rush upstairs and take it off. It was so uncomfortable, but it had just the razzle-dazzle Mother desired.

“This one’s perfect!” She cried, clapping her hands. She looked so happy that for once I wished I could get even a little bit excited over gowns and jewelry.

“Oh, and I’ll have my hairdresser do your hair. And you’ll have to wear your diamond tiara of course. Oh, oh, oh! Every prince there will fall head over heels, darling.” Mother stroked my dark curls, her eyes shining. Then she snapped back to queen-mode. “Now go take a bath, Valerie. And use your sweetest bath salts.”

*

I looked in the mirror. My gown was on, my face scrubbed, my hair piled-up, and my tiara glistening. I looked radiant.

But I wanted to look hideous. I wanted to repulse all my unwanted suitors. An idea flashed through my mind. Repulse them.

I sniffed loudly and scrunched up my nose in the mirror. Disgusting. I giggled. And then charming once again.

Mother frowned. “What are you doing?”

I sobered quickly. “Nothing. Ready?”

She sighed and replied, “I suppose.” Then she waltzed down the staircase before me. In her dark green gown, she made a stunning appearance. Down below, I could hear snippets of her announcement to the princes. “Today… lovely… marriage… princess… noble… bravest…wins!” Then she raised her voice. “And now you may meet Valerie Antonia Clarisse, Princess of Caledonia and heir to the throne.”

I took a deep breath. I was soon to be face-to-face with the man who would “win” my heart. Which of the terrible candidates would it be?

I grabbed the skirt of my light yellow gown and slowly descended the staircase. I could hear the whispers and gasps as my gloved hand slid down the rail. Slowly and fearfully, I looked up and felt my eyes drawn with a somewhat magnetic gaze into a familiar face below. Daniel.

I completely froze, gaping at him. He wore servants’ clothes and stood by a tall and arrogant-looking prince. My mind whirled. To think that I should meet him here, of all places, and with him a servant to one of the princes seeking my hand!

I must have looked very unladylike, staring at Daniel all goggly-eyed, because Mother shot me a disapproving glare. I wasn’t to publicly acknowledge a servant. Sadly, my gaze returned to the ground as I stepped off the steps.

Mother introduced me to each of the princes and I curtsied politely, but my mind was miles away. I didn’t dare look at Daniel’s grinning face again, and Mother didn’t bother introducing him to me anyway. “Princess Valerie must return to her chambers now, gentlemen. But she will greet you every evening at supper.”

As I passed Daniel, I hastily whispered, “Arbor.”

His eyes twinkled and I knew he understood. Once I was upstairs, I hastily changed into a simple dress and informed Hannah that I wished to go for a walk.

“Of course, Valerie. I’ll get our wraps.”

What? “Um, no.” I grabbed her arm. “I’d rather go alone, if you don’t mind.”

“I suppose.” She shrugged and returned to her book.

I practically flew to the rose arbor. Daniel was waiting. “Daniel!” I cried, running toward him.

“Valerie!” He grabbed me and spun me around, as if nothing had changed after all this time. “My, you’re even bigger and prettier than ever!” He immediately flushed, but I beamed anyway.

“Haven’t you ever learned not to tell a girl she’s gotten big?” I winked cheekily. “Oh, it’s no matter. You don’t look so bad yourself.” He was much taller than he’d been the last time I saw him. He had finally filled out in his shoulders, but had managed to stay slender. His blue eyes sparkled with mischief as he sat back down. Those beautiful eyes… I blinked. But that didn’t matter in friendship, of course.

He grinned, but soon sobered. “I heard about Ruth.” He pressed his lips together and gently touched my hand. “Thank you for being there when she died.”

It hadn’t even been a week. His pain was still fresh.

He leaned closer and frowned. “Why did you have to leave home? Why do you need a prince?”

His gaze burned. “I don’t want a prince. Mother is forcing me into an arranged marriage. I’m as miserable as a goat.”

For some reason, a smile danced across his lip. “How do we even know goats are miserable?”

I rolled my eyes. “I don’t know. They just are, okay?”

He grinned. “So what’s your plan for getting out of it?”

I wiggled my eyebrows. “Repulsion.”

He shook his head. “Wouldn’t work. You’re too pretty and too rich.”

I batted my eyelashes. “Have you ever fallen in love with a princess who slurped her soup, burped out loud, and snorted when she chuckled?”

He laughed out loud. “Brilliant, Val! Brilliant!”

To be continued…


{Belated} Sunday Stories: Sleeping Beauty – Part Eight

I’m pretty sure I have a really good reason why I didn’t post this yesterday. But the truth is, I can’t think of one. I wasted the afternoon away chatting on the phone, editing photos, and meeting my friend for tea at Starbucks. (Yes, I am the freak who hates coffee–You just learned something new about me)

Anyway, laziness or stifled teenage rebellion prevented me from posting my weekly “Sunday Stories” on an actual Sunday. But I really just drew the suspense out to make you all want it even more, right? Am I right? Well, maybe not. But, either way, here is this week’s installment. You can catch up here, if you need to.

Fairy tale

Chapter Six:

Before I knew it, I was almost sixteen. It had been nearly two years since Daniel left, and he wasn’t back yet.

All Mother would tell me was, “He’s needed right where he is.”

Now that Mother lived in the same castle as me, she came to see me a few times a week.

“Your father and I have decided,” she said the morning before my sixteenth birthday, “That we cannot wait for a prince any longer. Valerie, we simply must do something. Your father and I think we should hold a contest. The bravest, strongest, handsomest, gentlest prince of all shall be the one you may fall in love with and have to break the spell.” She beamed as if this were the best idea ever.

I was enraged. How dare she pick my husband!

Mother looked nervous. “Now, this is the only way, Valerie. You must have the right prince, you know.”

I couldn’t take it any longer. “No, Mother! It’s not the only way!”

Her eyes flashed. “Do not raise your voice to me!” I’d never seen her so angry. Her face was red and her green eyes shimmered. I looked down instantly.

“If you say so, Mother.”

I’d have to marry a trophy.

*

            Ruth got worse every day. Her fever raged and she was hardly ever awake.

I once brought Hannah, but the sight made Hannah cry so badly I felt my heart break at the corners. Why couldn’t Daniel come home? She called out his name in her sleep. She needed her brother.

I held Ruth’s hand and wiped her forehead with a wet cloth. Ruth tossed and cried out. “Shhh…” How much longer would she last?

Hannah shifted nervously. “The queen will be arriving shortly, Valerie.”

“Goodbye,” I whispered to Ruth. I kissed her mother and stepped out of the house, holding my skirts up as I trekked back to the castle.

“Valerie.” Mother was already in my room, arms stretched out, waiting for me when I returned.

I ducked her embrace. “Yes, Mother?”

Her smile froze. She dropped her arms and adjusted her wine-colored gown. “Oh, I was just coming to tell you to pack your things. We’re leaving for the palace in the mountains the day after tomorrow. We’ll hold the contest there.”

Leaving? With Ruth so sick? I could never leave her. I made a promise to Daniel.

“Mother…” My voice broke. I threw myself on my bed and sobbed into the pillows.

“Valerie, darling, what’s wrong? I thought you’d enjoy going away for a few months. Everyone will still be here when you return.”

Would Ruth still be here? I stood and rushed out of the door. I couldn’t even cry on my own bed without Mother hovering over me.

*

            “Ruth.” I had to leave in a little less than an hour. Ruth opened her eyes for the first time in days and smiled faintly. She looked at mother.

“Ma,” she whispered. Daniel’s mother rushed to her side and grabbed Ruth’s hand.

“Yes, sweet?”

“Ma.” Ruth coughed. “Don’t be…” Her voice was weak. “Don’t be sad when I leave. I love you all.” She glanced at each sibling before her gaze returned to her mother. “Tell Daniel I love him, too.”

I could see her grip on her mother’s hand tighten and then drop. “I’m ready now,” she whispered. Then she closed her light blue eyes, a peaceful smile on her lips.

Daniel’s mother sobbed.

“Princess Valerie,” Hannah said from the doorway. “It’s time to go.”

*

            Every attempt at conversation Mother made in the carriage died. I stared out the window, seeing nothing as I blinked away tears.

“Is something troubling you, dear?” Mother finally asked.

I shook my head sadly. She’d never understand my grief for the loss of a peasant. Beside me, Hannah squeezed my hand. My only friend. Besides Daniel, who I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever see again. Where was he?

“Mother,” My voice quivered. Be brave. “Where is Daniel right now?”

Mother’s dark head lifted from the book she was reading. “Who?” She blinked rapidly.

“Daniel. The stable boy you sent away two years ago.”

“Oh. I really haven’t the slightest idea, darling.” She turned back to her book.

Hannah sighed beside me. She was probably remembering the look on Ruth’s face when she called out to him.

“Oh, and by the way, Valerie.” Mother didn’t even look up as she spoke. “Many fine, handsome princes have spoken with your father since the other day. I spoke to one myself and he had much to say of his own wealth and intelligence.”

So basically he was vain. Great.

“I’m presenting them to you tomorrow.”

Tomorrow? I didn’t have much time to get out of it. I pressed my lips together. But there’s always a chance.

“Of course you’ll have maids attending you at all times until then.

Pop. My bubble burst. Why, of all the princesses ever born in Caledonia, why did it have to be my birth that Malkaka was not invited to? Why did I have to end up being the one cursed and absolutely helpless, unable to have any say in my own fate? I was stuck wishing and praying for a kind-hearted prince who loved stories. But what were the chances of that?

To be continued…


Sunday Stories: Sleeping Beauty – Part Seven

Soooo excited for “Chasing Jupiter” to come out this week! Hopefully, I’ll have lots to blog about. 😉

Anyway, hope you enjoy this week’s installment of the “Sleeping Beauty” story I wrote when I was twelve! You can read the past installments here. I’m off to eat a TON of food and hopefully have a wonderful Christmas with my family! 🙂

Fairy tale

Chapter Five

Over the next few months, while I waited for my gowns to be finished, I visited Daniel’s family every day. I grew to love them so much. I loved his mother in all her loving sweetness, the twins and their mischievousness, and I loved Ruth, as dear as she was.

Sometimes, when I went to visit Ruth, she’d be asleep. So I’d sit on the edge of her bed and sing softly to her.

Her favorite song to wake up to was an old Caledonian lullaby called, “There I’ll Be.” So I’d rub her legs and murmur,

 

“Close your eyes, little dove,

Fly away, little dove.

Soar away to dreamland,

There I’ll be.

 

Listen, little dove,

Come back, little dove.

Fly home away from dreamland,

There I’ll be.”

 

Once, Ruth asked me to tell her about the day I was born. “Daniel said you tell it real pretty,” she whispered. Her eyes were sunken back into her head and her skin was white as snow. She could barely lift her shoulders off the pillow.

I reached for her hand and rubbed gentle circles into her skin. I tried not to let her see the teardrops glistening in my eyes as I started my story.

“And there was much rejoicing in all of Caledonia,” I finally finished.

She smiled softly and closed her eyes. Within a few seconds, her breathing deepened, and I knew she was asleep.

I stared at her pale face. Her long, dark lashes stood out stark against her papery cheeks. I sighed. She must miss Daniel. Will he be back before she leaves us?

No! I straightened. She’s not going to leave. She’s going to get better, have five children, and live to be eighty-seven.

But the truth hurt.

*

Mother arrived with my royal trousseau of dresses the next day.

“Valerie,” her voice was smooth as honey. She glided into my bedroom, arms spread out. “Why do you look so surprised, sweet?”

I shook off my shock and managed to curtsy. “I wasn’t expecting you again so soon, Mother.”

She looked over my nightgown, bare feet, and messy hair. “I see.” The pause seemed to stretch on forever before she smiled. “Well, I just had to come. To see you in your new gowns and introduce you to your new tutors.” She turned and waved in the dresses as a new wave of shock flooded me.

“Tutors?”

“Hmmm? Oh, yes. Just tutors for, you know, posture, table manners, ballroom dancing, etiquette… nothing special.” Mother pulled the first item out of the trunk of new dresses. It was a white silk nightgown with blue ribbons. “Oh, how lovely.” Mother smiled sweetly at me.

My mind was still whirling at the thought of all those tutors.

Mother pulled out a midnight blue ballgown, glistening with a thousand crystals. “For your first ball,” she explained.

My first ball? As in, there’d be more than one?

She frowned at my confused face. “Is there something wrong with my choices?”

I looked at the yellow silk “supper dress” she’d just placed on the bed. I’m not right for the life of a princess.

*

It didn’t take long to get used to tutors. Not that I enjoyed them. But seeing as my life was suddenly centered around them, they became like a big, annoying family to me. Sure, they all had their moments when they were kind or funny, but for the most part Dancing Master was too picky, Singing Mistress was too harsh, and Posture and Manner Masters were both too old and crabby. The only one I liked was Writing Mistress.

Writing Mistress loved words as much as I did, and always encouraged me to work my hardest at using them. Along with Hannah, she was the only other person I confided in. I even let her read some of Daniel’s letters.

“Princess Valerie,” she once told me. “Your life is a story, just waiting to be told. So open up and tell it to the world.”

To be continued…


Sunday Stories: Sleeping Beauty – Part Six

Sooooo…. Technically, this would be called “Monday Stories”, seeing as it is no longer Sunday. I totally meant to write this up and post it yesterday afternoon, but I ended up going to a big family Christmas party, and then a big Mother-Daughter dessert party, and was gone from 10 in the morning to 11 at night! So there really was no time to get together my weekly story! Sorry!

Anyway, here is part six of my “Sleeping Beauty” story from 2008. Things take a turn for the slightly dramatic/bittersweet this week, which is really funny for me to re-read after all these years. 🙂 Hope you enjoy! Here are the past five installments, if you need to catch up.

Fairy tale

“Your highness.” Hannah was waiting for me when I returned.

I was much too tired and depressed to deal with this. “Hannah,” I yawned. “Regardless of what my mother says, you shall only call me ‘Princess’ when others are around. I prefer the name ‘Valerie.’”

“Oh, your highness!” Hannah’s eyes widened and she shook her head.

“Valerie! Now please help me get out of this dress.” I finally got the lace gown off my head and pulled on an old forest green one. Much more comfortable.

“Oh, Valerie,” Flora said. I hadn’t noticed her standing by the window. “Your mother informed me that she would be sending for a dress maker to design you a whole new wardrobe, darling. No more simple dresses, she said. Now that you’re grown you must always look your best, she says.” Flora lowered her voice. “You must to catch a prince, she says.”

I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks. I don’t need to catch a stupid prince! That was just utter poppy-cock!

Flora wrapped an arm around me. “I don’t think your new dresses will be as fancy as that lace one, sweet. And heaven knows you won’t need a prince to wake you up.”

*

I was up at the crack of dawn the next morning. Daniel’s leaving today! I jumped out of bed but Hannah gently pushed me back in. I blinked at her sleepily. “You’re an early riser.”

She smiled. “I’m a light sleeper.” That’s when I noticed that the door that adjoined our rooms was open. “I heard you tossing and turning,” she said, wringing her nightgown. “Prin… Valerie, I know your friend is leaving today, but you must eat something. Flora told me that you skipped breakfast yesterday.”

“I’m not hungry.” My stomach growled.

Hannah laughed. “Just wait until I’m dressed, Valerie. Then I’ll call the serving maid.”

By the time I was finished eating, the sun was already rising in the sky. I pulled on my favorite light green dress and quickly braided my hair. “I’ll be back soon, Hannah.”

I ran toward Daniel’s house, hoping to catch him alone, but I found a carriage already waiting by the front door. Daniel hugged each sibling and kissed his mother goodbye. When he looked up and saw me, he gave me one last wave before climbing in the carriage and driving away.

I wouldn’t see his smile for another year. I wouldn’t hear his laugh or see his light blue eyes for over three hundred and sixty five days. Maybe never again.

Daniel’s mother was sobbing and holding her little ones to her chest protectively. Slowly, I approached her. I found my cheeks were wet also. The mother looked up at me and sniffed. I touched her shoulder softly and bit my lip. No words were needed to tell her how sorry I was.

“Thank you for coming, Valerie.” She shooed away the two little ones in her lap and stood. “Daniel told me to give you something.” I followed her into her home and stood by the door.

A few moments later she returned with a letter. She handed it to me sadly. “I’m going to miss my boy.”

I sucked in my breath. I wanted to tell her that it was my fault he was gone—that Mother thought we were too close and sent him away—but I couldn’t. “I’ll miss him, too,” I said instead.

“Ma, who’s there?” I heard from inside Ruthie’s room.

I walked into her room and smiled. “Hello, Ruth.”

“Hello, Princess. Is he gone?” Her blue eyes looked worried.

I forced myself to nod and sat on the edge of her bed. “But I’m here now.” I grasped her thin and smiled.

*

Once I was alone in my bed chamber again I smoothed out Daniel’s letter and read it.

“Dear Val,

I’m writing this soon before I leave, with the hope that you will visit with my family at some point and receive it while I am away.

You are my best friend, you know. I’m glad we became friends.

I’m sorry this note must be short, but I’m leaving in a few minutes.

I’ll write you. I promise.

Please look after Ruthie.

Sincerely,

Daniel.”

To be continued….