excerpts

Fiction By Aisling // 5/8/2007

“Flavia! You’ll catch your death of a cold out here without your coat!” It was Brian’s voice, imitating Mother’s.
Flavia, ignoring his remark, turned and gave him a sweet smile. “Wouldn’t it be lovely Brian, if—”
“Yes. Yes, I suppose it would be; not to have you worrying everyone all the time, throwing such awful fits, stirring up the little boys, bothering Cynthia, making—”
“Brian Joseph!” Flavia stamped her foot furiously. “I ought to beat you up for that!”
He smiled his extremely annoying smile. “I don’t advise it.”
She growled. “And I don’t throw fits, and I don’t bother Cynthia, and—” she stopped, suddenly realizing that she didn’t do any of the things he’d said, and he knew it. He hadn’t gone on about her shortcomings at all. What he had really been saying was that it would be wretched to lose her.
She stood staring.
“Catching on?” he asked, with a crooked smile. But he turned to the barn, then, suddenly awkward.
Flavia felt a quick surge of dizzying affection. She knew she’d ruin the moment forever if she said anything sweet, though, so she just closed her mouth and hurried after him.
“I’m so glad the cold weather’s coming. It feels like it hasn’t been winter in forever,” she said, tentatively.
“That feeling won’t last long.”
“I suppose not . . . but this coolness is delicious just now, and I guess now’s all that really matters—for now.”
Brian shook his head. “How did you ever get to be such a treacherous optimist, Flav?”
“How did you ever dream up such a treacherous nickname? And why do I ever let you use it?”
“Because I’m your brother and you love me.”
She didn’t roll her eyes, like she usually did. She just smiled. Oh, more than you know, she said to herself. But aloud, “I wouldn’t test your luck, if I were you. Advised or otherwise, I just might have to pitch into you one of these days.”
Brian laughed uproariously, and Flavia knew that was the end of all reasonable conversation.

---------------

The world was darkling rather swiftly. The air was heavy with rain. You could feel it—full, full of this life-blood, this blessing. Or was it a curse? Yolande didn’t know. But she could feel it all the same. The air…waiting to bring it forth, a gift, a smile, for the weary world. Or was it a curse?
Waiting. There is so much good one can do in the world, if one has the fortitude to persevere, the heart to stay true…the patience to wait.
But for what? Yolande wasn’t sure. That heavy storminess was growing inside her again, hanging over her like a shadow. But, somehow, something was holding it off. And she wasn’t sure.
Yolande felt a drop on her face. And she smiled. She still wasn’t sure, but she smiled. And she took a breath. The earth smelled like rain.
“Look, Yolande. Heaven’s crying.”
Yolande turned to see Helena’s hand outstretched where it had caught a raindrop. Yolande blinked. “No, Helena; Heaven doesn’t cry.”
“I think it must… They have to be able to see, from up there—” Helena looked up at the heavy grey sky “—all the tragedy of this world of ours…hear every voice cry out…feel every heart break.”
“But up there they can see the end, Helena—and, in the end, the end is blessedness, where all shall be well.”
“Maybe… But on earth we can’t comprehend that. And until then we are crying and breaking and getting lost. And a heaven that cannot, at its heart, see and know and grieve over that tragedy…can be no heaven at all.”
Yolande blinked; her heart was pounding in her ears, making her head throb.

---------------

Anthea pushed the old door open with her elbow, and it swung closed behind her with the old companionable creak. The printing room was dimly-lit and unbelievably stuffy.
Marty came running at the sight of the tray she held. “Oh, goody!” he cried. “Biscuits.” He snatched away two of the warm biscuits and a glass of water, and sat down on the old chest, swinging his skinny legs and munching away merrily.
Anthea shook her head at him. She flung a strand of hair out of her face and walked across the room to where Alan was still hard at work.
“Alan.”
He turned, and his old familiar smile lit up the silver in his tired eyes.
“I brought you some water,” Anthea said. “And Marty was gracious enough—“ she shot a withering glance over her shoulder, “—to leave you a biscuit.”
“Oh, I couldn’t eat. Thanks, though.” And he took the water from her and drank the whole glass in one gulp.
She lingered. “Do you need anything else?” He looked so pathetic; his white shirt all dirty, drenched with sweat and clinging to his chest and his broad shoulders; his eyebrows bent still in a studied way, and his dark hair hanging in limp and sweaty curls on against his shining forehead. Her girlish heart filled in a rush with affection and sympathy.
He smiled again, as he set the glass back on her tray. “No, thank you, Annie.”
She nodded and turned away.
“Oh, wait. Annie?”
She turned back. “Yes?”
“Did you read any more in that poetry book?”
“Yes.”
“…Are you busy, now?”
“No…”
“Could you read some to me?”
“Now? But how can you listen and work at the same time?”
“Oh, I’ll manage to comprehend a thing here and there. Besides, I can listen to your voice reading it, and that’ll do me good.”
Anthea cocked an eyebrow. “Should I get the book, then?”
“Only if you don’t mind.” He was already back working again.
Anthea shook her head at his back. “I’ll be right in.”
Marty made a face as she passed him. “Poetry!” he scoffed.
Anthea turned to look at him. The energetic 13-yr-old boy was as different from his brother as winter from spring—even physically, with his fair hair and blue-ish eyes. But then, Anthea had never known any other boy quite like Alan.
“If he’s not eating that biscuit…”
Anthea glared at Marty, but she had to laugh in spite of herself at the mischievous innocence written all over his handsome boyish face.
She tossed the biscuit at him, still laughing. “All right, take it, you little imp. But eat it quick, and then get back to helping your brother.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He saluted sharply.
She tousled his hair—partly because she knew he didn’t like it, and partly because it was in his eyes—and went out.

---------------

She was suddenly and wholly alone, in a dark still pine grove—or almost alone. Something stirred in the tree above her. Before Yolande could quench her nervousness, a scream tore the air, there was a quick and heavy rush of wings, and something was swooping so close over her head she could feel the wind pulling on her hair. She gasped for breath and stumbled backward, covering her head with her hands. But without even a second to recover her wits she hit into something—something that wasn’t a tree.
A strong hand gripped her wrist. Screaming, Yolande and whirled around. She found herself looking up into a pair of clear, brilliant hazel eyes.
The strange man blinked and released her. “I beg your pardon,” he said, in a deep resonant voice. “Though you should not go stalking people, shennehs, if you do not want to be frightened.”
Yolande stared back at him. She couldn’t seem to do anything else; she was still laboring for breath, and the world was rather more quaking than stationary. “I…I’m sorry,” she stammered. “I didn’t mean… I was only walking…”
“Walking, you say?” He smiled. “Do you usually walk out here at this time of morning?”
Yolande couldn’t look into his eyes and say yes. “I saw you…from our window,” she confessed. And then she suddenly felt brave. “How is it that you are out here at this time of morning?”
“That I shall keep to myself, shennehs.”
She scoffed, and her eyes were saying that’s rather impolite of you when she stopped, suddenly taken aback. “How do you know who I am?” she asked.
“It’s not every day one meets a pretty young woman creeping through a pine grove at dawn, with a velvet cape, sparkling eyes, and a flushed countenance.”
Yolande lifted an eyebrow, more than slightly taken aback. “But duchesses are more apt to be found under such circumstances?”
He smiled again. “Only a duchess would have that creativity.”
Yolande was still unsatisfied, and very much confused. “Anyone who had just been frightened half out of their wits by a hawk that seemed intent on scalping them would, I believe, be found rather more flushed and overwrought than not.”
“Yes, that must have given you a scare,” he said, a host of lines suddenly drawing themselves across his forehead. “Are you all right?”
Yolande blinked, thoroughly unnerved by this sudden change to tenderness. “Y-yes.”
“You took me by surprise too, you see—else I would have introduced myself with more delicacy, I assure you.”
“Introduced yourself? You still haven’t told me who you are.”
“That’s what you came to find out, eh?”
She said nothing. He left her nothing to say.
“Well… I am a man of many names. My favorite is Gildien, which means Forester in the old language.”
“Gildien? But who are you really? You have to have a birth name.”
“I do, don’t I. Sometimes I wish I did not have to…”
Yolande was dumbfounded. “Well? I can’t help believing you a spy, or something equally dangerous, if—“
He cleared his throat loudly. “Is my impoliteness rubbing off?” Yolande didn’t realize until much later that she had never said anything about his being impolite aloud, and she let his question pass, at the time comparatively unsettled by it. “Since when does a lady up and accuse anyone of any decency whatever of being a spy?”
“Excuse my saying so, but the odds are in my favor,” Yolande said.
He smiled yet again. He had the strangest smile; but not at all an unnatural one—indeed, Yolande had the sensation that she had never seen a truer smile in her life.
She bit her lip; she wasn’t getting anywhere. Subtly, she looked him up and down. “That is…begging your pardon, but you’re unlike anyone I’ve ever met. You’re…something out of the ordinary.”
He bowed. “Well, thank you. I’m gratified.”
Yolande twisted her toe in the pine needles. If he wasn’t going to tell her anything else she might as well go back inside.
She looked up. Could she trust him? Could she just walk away and leave him there? What if he was an enemy? Suddenly a smile jumped into the corner of her mouth. If he was an enemy of Regnery, chances were he was a friend of Gra-Holden. For a moment she looked into his eyes—and he met her inquiring glance steadily—and she trusted him. She couldn’t explain why; it was something in behind his eyes, something in the tone of his voice, something in the way he held his head, maybe even something in how he smiled halfway when he spoke, and how his smile was so true.
“Well, goodbye, sir.” She curtseyed prettily. “I’ll return to my sister now.”
He bowed. “Yes. Give her my best regards.”
She turned away, though not without a last wondering glance, and slowly crossed back over the lawn.
“Shennehs,” he called after her.
She looked back over her shoulder.
“You may tell her it is from Estéve D’Armand.”
The breath fled Yolande’s lungs and she gasped, almost stumbling backward. “D’Armand? Sir!” But he had disappeared, deep into the heart of the trees—leaving her with only one last glimpse of the flash of his hazel eyes, smiling triumphantly.

---------------

“Fingal,” Charlotte said.
“Hm?” He looked away.
“You’re not telling me something. What is it you’re hiding, and why?”
“Hiding? Nothing.”
“That’s dishonesty.” Charlotte’s eyes smiled, for a fleeting second. “I’ve a mind to throw you overboard.”
He looked straight at her, the same flash of a laugh starting into his own eyes. “You do, do you? I’d like to see you try it. I’d also like to see how far you got on afterward.”
“Ha! So you admit I could do it.”
“I most certainly do not. I merely point out the impractical rashness of your even trying.”
Charlotte sobered. “I mean to get an answer from you, Fingal. I won’t leave off ‘til I’ve got it, too. And you would fain try to evade me—I’m quite determined.”
“Very well. Suit yourself.”
“So? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong. But a great many things could go wrong.”
Charlotte shook her head and sighed. “What’s the use, Fingal? Nothing you have to tell me could possibly be any worse than what my imagination has, this long time, been contriving into possibility. And you can’t be bound by secrecy; you would have let me know that before now.”
“No. I am not bound to secrecy—save by my conscience.”
Charlotte was openly confused.
“It would not be good, Charlotte, for you to know what I know,” he told her.

---------------

“Flavia! Maeve!”
Flavia jumped. “That’s Dad yelling. Hurry.” She and her sister fairly tumbled into the kitchen. “Yes, Daddy?”
He breathed deep and let it out, slowly—like he always did before he made a speech.
Flavia swallowed, catching sight of the burnt steak on the countertop.
“I put the steak in the oven, and I left the two of you to keep an eye on it. I thought that, between the two of you, you would have been able to handle the situation. All you had to do was flip it over, check it, and take it out when it was cooked through. You’re big girls, now—“
Flavia winced. It was especially hard when he went there.
“—you should have known better. But now it’s burnt. So badly, I’m afraid, that we won’t be able to eat a bit of it. A good piece of steak, and a considerable sum of money in that, absolutely gone to waste.”
Flavia winced harder, and both she and Maeve’s heads dropped.
“Times are hard… We all need to realize that. I trust this won’t happen again?”
“No, Daddy,” Flavia said, quickly. “Never. I’m sorry—really.”
“Yeah,” Maeve added. “I’m sorry too. I told Flavia to check it—I thought she heard me.”
“It’s my fault,” Flavia agreed. “I was just thoughtless.”
“All right, then.” He sighed again; this time it meant he was through. “That’s all.”
They turned to go—but then Flavia stopped. “Daddy?”
“Yes?”
“How much did the steak cost? I’ll pay—“
He shook his head.
“No—please, take it out of my allowance.”
He smiled. “No, Flav. It was probably left over from last year, when we had old Joe butchered. Yes, it was food. And yes, we would have eaten it, and gotten a pretty good meal out of it too,” he admitted, seeing her begin to protest, “but I don’t really think it cost us anything significant. I was only thinking of what the price of a steak could have been. At any rate, I’m not about to take it out of my daughter’s allowance. We both know you get next to nothing as it is.” He smiled at her, then. The kind that made her feel absolutely beautiful, all the way through. “If you feel that badly about it, though, you could go without meat, nest time we happen upon some. God knows when that will be…”
“Good. I will. Thanks.”
“Run along, now.”
Flavia’s face broke into a smile. “I love you, Dad,” she said, and she ran away.

---------------

Bethany smiled into Liam’s young eyes. “Poor boy. Everyone’s leaving you.”
He shrugged, with a half-hearted laugh.
“But Becca’s coming home soon. Will you…will you go to the station for me, Liam, to meet her? Mama will be there. But I’m sure she would love to see you—and it would make up for me not being here to meet her.”
“No, I couldn’t make up for that. But I’ll go, if you want me to.”
“Oh, thank you! Thank you so much… And, Liam?”
He looked up.
“I’m so unspeakably glad that you’re going to help Father with the farm work. I can’t tell you what it means to me—and you having a good deal of work to be done on your own place…”
He shrugged again. “Father has Ricky, too. And, Rick, he means to stay a while this time. I figure your folks will be needing some help. So long as we’ve got two of us over at my place, and your parents haven’t anyone…well, you know. Anybody’d see the reasoning in it.”
Bethany smiled. “No, Liam. Not anybody. It takes a good, selfless young man like you. –And once Becca’s home she’ll be a real help. I’ll come back as often as I can…but I don’t know how often that will be, seeing as train tickets will be expensive, and I won’t have many holidays.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll keep track of things.”
“Thank you, Liam. I don’t think I could go at all, if I didn’t have the comfort of knowing you’ll be here.”
He nodded. “Well, have a safe trip up.”
“Thank you, Liam… Goodbye.”
“Bye.”
She turned to go, but stopped after only a step or two. “Oh, and…Liam?”
He was smiling oddly as she came back.
“The next time you write to Isaac, will you tell him ‘hello’ from me? And that I’m sorry I couldn’t see him again before I had to go?”
“Sure. Anything else I should tell him?”
“N-no… Except that I wish him well this school year.”
Liam nodded. “All right.”
She smiled. “Thanks. Bye.”
“You sure that’s all?”
“Yes, you wretched boy. If I think of anything else, I’ll add it in my letter home.”
“All right. Bye, Bethany.”
“Bye, wretch.”
The last she saw of Liam was the laugh in his eyes, and the lively smile that danced about the corners of his mouth and made you want to sing. And then he was gone, too.
One by one, she had to leave everyone behind.

---------------

Home.
Mariot dropped her bags in the street, and bending, opened her arms to the two little boys who came running toward her whooping, and Fenella behind them. She kissed them all, wishing she didn’t have to let them go. Ever.
And then Mother came, and Mariot, beaming for gladness, hugged her too—eagerly taking in her warm homey smell, and the sound of her voice, smiling, saying, “Marrie.”
As Mariot turned back to her bags, her heart stopped. “Daddy!” She was smiling so hard that it hurt, as her father’s big arms came around her, and he dropped his prickly kiss on her cheek.
“Where’s Donal?” she asked, once Father let her go. Smiling, he stepped aside—and Mariot saw her brother behind him, leaning on he gate, waiting.
On impulse, Mariot flung wide her arms and ran to him.
Quickly she was taken in, and she pressed her head close against his broad young chest. It had been a long time—too long—since she had given him a hug.
And then she felt Donal’s kiss on her hair, and a darling warm sensation ran all the way through her. She squeezed him harder. Oh, how she loved this dear, tall, strong brother of hers! Almost, she had never quite realized how much. And now—
Her heart ached for love of them all. And t was spilling over out of her eyes. Oh, how she had missed them!
It was good, so good to be home.

Comments

a gaseous state principal chap

OK, let me repeat that… I want everyone to know about my romantic laser I have a nice joke. What do termites do to relax? Take a coffee table break!!

Anonymous | Tue, 11/04/2008

fairness and equality nice female

Great website. Are you keeping up with my unrelated publicity I have a nice fresh joke for you people) Frankenstein: What is it like to be in a bottle for 5,000 years? Genie: It's a JARRING experience.

Anonymous | Tue, 11/11/2008

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