I was too busy to play along with Elizabeth’s writing sprints last Friday, but I was in the mood for something upbeat and I really liked the prompt words. So…here’s a short story featuring a character who lost something important, including the words proud, plaid, thief, viper, whisper, drawer, crazy, disguised, deceit, fictional, ideal, sibling, insecure, nerve, garden, and squirrel.
The Great Escape
It was a crazy plan, so audacious that nobody suspected a thing.
Theodora Greatly-Minted started the rumor herself. She confided in one carefully selected friend after obtaining a pledge of utmost secrecy. Then watched it snowball from a faint whisper to the hottest tidbit in the ton.
Poor Lady Theodora. Too proud to admit she’d fallen victim to The Squirrel. Too haughty to acknowledge that her family’s place in the highest reaches of the Upper Ten Thousand was suddenly— calamitously—insecure.
Society’s most poisonous vipers salivated over every humiliating detail.
The Squirrel, legendary thief and expert forger, was a master of deceit. He’d waited until Theodora was out of town, disguised himself as her long-lost older brother, and convinced the manager of Cahoots Bank that he was the heir to the Greatly-Minted fortune. The fictional sibling had emptied the vaults, mortgaged the town house and the country estate, and sold every painting, horse, and stick of furniture. He’d left Theodora so indebted she didn’t have a feather to fly with.
In the ballroom, the fiddlers scraped and debutantes played with their fans. The cream of society danced, drank and gambled, while the old cats watched and hissed and speculated.
Theodora stood on the terrace overlooking the formal garden, watching Percy Blueblood, her about-to-be-ex-fiancé, stumble through his carefully prepared speech. She’d wanted to be sure, to leave herself no room for doubt. Deep down she’d known what he’d choose, but hearing it still stung.
“Sorry, Dora, but you must see this changes everything,” Percy blustered.
“Why?” Theodora folded her arms, wrapping her plaid shawl more tightly around herself. “You’re rich enough for both of us, Percy. Aren’t you?”
“Um.” He hunched an impeccably tailored shoulder. “I have debts, Dora. Pressing obligations. A gentleman does.”
“Oh.” She let her face cloud over for a moment, made herself give him one more chance. “Then we’ll economize. You love me. That’s the only thing that matters.”
“Love you?” Percy’s handsome face creased in perplexity. “I suppose I did, when I thought you were my ideal woman. Beautiful, and high-born, and…wealthy.”
“I see.” On Theodora’s clenched left fist the Blueblood sapphire glowed in the lamplight. “In the circumstances I suppose at least I get to keep the ring?”
“Sorry. My need is greater than yours.” Percy held out his gloved hand and loomed over her until she removed the offending bauble and handed it over. He tucked it hastily in his waistcoat pocket. “I’ll have to offer for Myrtle Well-Endowed. She mentioned this morning that sapphires are her favorite stones.”
“How convenient.” For Theodora, as well as Percy. She’d been planning to warn Myrtle, but clearly the scheming minx was well able to look after herself.
“I must go.” Percy actually had the nerve to kiss her. He licked his lips first, leaving a cold wet smear on her cheek. “Good luck, Dora.”
Theodora watched him stride back into the ballroom: tall, broad-shouldered, eligible, and utterly useless. Then she slipped quietly through the garden and out of the servants’ gate, where Captain James Noble, lately of Her Majesty’s Navy, had the horses waiting. The strongboxes had gone on ahead. They’d be aboard the Explorer by now, together with her pistols and The Squirrel’s surprisingly authentic bona fides.
“No last minute surprises, then?” James asked calmly as he handed her into the saddle.
“No.” She couldn’t meet his eyes. “You were right all along.”
“Percy’s an idiot.” He nudged his mount closer to hers, until they were almost knee to knee. “Shall I call him out for you, Theo?”
“No need,” she said, suddenly feeling much better about everything. “He’s going to marry Myrtle Well-Endowed.”
“A fate worse than death.” James’s smile gleamed wickedly in the moonlight.
James might not be from the top drawer, but he was more of a gentleman than Percy would ever be. With his help, Theo felt sure she’d find her brother. And freedom. And perhaps, just perhaps, a lifetime of happiness.
I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I enjoyed writing it! Happy Sunday, everyone 🙂