I’m looking forward to reading some fun short stories from the other Ladies and hopefully from some commenters, as well! Sadly, I won’t be contributing one of my own for one simple reason – I haven’t mastered the art of the short story.
I tend to think of stories with long complicated plots, lots of subplots, subplots to subplots, and huge casts of characters. And then I totally overwrite, usually needing to cut 10k or even 20k words out of an overblown first draft. So 5000, 3000, or even as little as 1000 words to tell an entire story? Yikes!
Still, I hold out hope. 2014 was the year I learned, if not totally mastered, the art of the novella. I’ve trimmed a 60k story down to 45k and am still streamlining. So maybe 2015 will be the year I learn the art of the much shorter story.
In the meantime, I considered sharing a Christmas scene from Taste of Liberty for our Christmas story week. However, when I went back to the book, I realized the Christmas passage was actually a three-scene sequence, with tangled subplots I’d need to explain and loads of characters I’d need to introduce for any of it to make sense. So instead, I’ll share a snippet of that Christmas scene sequence, an interaction between the h/h who are not yet a couple, but who desperately want to be.
The setup: It’s December 1777, in the colony of Virginia. Sebastian Cole is a British soldier who has deserted his post, Liberty (Libbie) MacRae is an American spy, and both have a price on their heads. But years earlier, they’d met in simpler times. Alone on Christmas Eve, they might be able to finally explore what could have been between them if war had not shattered their world. And so I give you a Libbie/Sebastian Christmas vignette.
Libbie glimpsed the hilt of the knife in the scabbard at Sebastian’s waist. It was a harsh reminder of the danger that permeated every moment of their lives. “We really should leave town tonight, shouldn’t we?”
“No. It won’t be an easy ride. It’s best not to attempt it in the dark.” As he spoke, Sebastian donned a black jacket embroidered with delicate gold thread. He took care to conceal his weapon well.
He peered into the mirror and smoothed back his hair, then struggled to gather it in a black ribbon. Libbie stepped forward to tie it for him. When she brushed her fingers across his neck, their eyes locked in the mirror.
“Enough about our enemies. This night is for celebration. And what would a Christmas Eve celebration be without a gift?”
He turned toward her and pulled out a small package from his pocket.
She smiled and reached for his hand.
“Oh, no you don’t! Sit down first.”
Her heart pounded with excitement as she perched on the edge of a chair. She held out her hand, barely able to contain herself. Sebastian laughed as he dropped the small gift into her palm. It was a hard, oddly shaped cylinder, wrapped in a delicate kerchief and secured with silver thread.
“The kerchief is from your aunt,” he told her. “She made me promise you would receive it on Christmas Eve.”
Libbie traced the pattern of the cloth’s lace embroidery. “It’s beautiful. Just beautiful.”
“Yes, it is. But what about the rest of the gift?”
She pulled the kerchief aside and held up a lead crystal perfume bottle engraved with winding, flowering vines. “Oh, Sebastian,” she breathed.
“I know a glassmaker in Charlottesville.” He bent on one knee in front of her and held the bottle steady while he unscrewed the top. The scent of the clear liquid inside it wafted into the air. He touched the lid to her wrist, leaving the enticing scent on her skin.
“Gardenias. My favorite flower.”
“There’s one more thing.” He went to his overcoat and pulled out a small wooden box.
“Another gift? Oh, Sebastian, I didn’t even get you one.”
“This is something that already belongs to you. I kept this box hidden in my quarters at the fort. It held some letters from my family. And this.”
He held out his hand her and slowly opened it. In the middle of his palm, a small hairpin decorated with delicate green and pink flowers glinted.
“I have a pin just like this! I had two but I lost one the first night we met and…oh.”
He lifted a wayward curl from her face and secured it above her ear with the pin. “I saw it on the verandah after you left. I should have given it back to you then but… It’s difficult to explain. It was just something of you that I could take with me. I didn’t think you’d miss it.”
She threw her arms around his neck. He had answered the questions she had been afraid to ask. “What I felt that night – what I thought we felt – it wasn’t just my imagination.”