Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Just checking – everyone okay out there?

Things here at the Writing Castle are going well, except for the fact that I have been ingesting far more coffee than any one person should.  I might have to social isolate myself from the refrigerator or at least from the container of cold brewed coffee.

The (stale) fortune cookie I scavenged from the snack cupboard today said, “Now is a good time to explore.”  Obviously not a Covid-approved fortune, unless it is suggesting further exploration the snack cupboard for other forgotten treats.

For now, I’m alternating work (luckily I have a day-job I can do from anywhere), walking around the block (without coming in contact with anyone), and baking.  Right now there is a pan of sticky pecan rolls doing it’s thing in the oven.  Hardly health food, but definitely necessary for mental health.

Rather than continuing to refresh the Worldometers site for up-to-date virus statistics, I think I’ll take a break, enjoy a stick pecan roll (no coffee though), and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try after work.

Care to join me?

For those of you working away on a story (whether a first draft or a polished version on its way to publication), if you’re not feeling random, we’d love to hear a bit – whether it’s a scene, a paragraph, or even a phrase that you are especially pleased with and would like to share.

If you don’t have a story in progress, or just want to work on something new, I hope either today’s random words or writing prompt will catch your creative fancy.

Ready?

What if: “Your character is trying to figure out how to work from home?

Feel free to interpret the “What if” any way you choose (or ignore it completely) and include any (or all) of the following random words:

messenger      downfall       pilot         weapon

helicopter       horizontal     bald         bland

clover              neurotic        bait         danger

fairytale          blame           delete       wax

I look forward to seeing your stories in the comments.  If you’re not feeling in the writing mood today, or don’t have time, feel free to post suggestions you might have for future “what-if” prompts.  Ideas are always welcome.

Happy writing to all!

6 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

  1. I’ve not played here for awhile, so I’ll give it a go today. I’ve been working on the backstory to Book 2. Here’s the scene where Tradwick (hero of Book 2), a first-year, meets Nate and Ben at Eton, who become his best friends (and eventually form The Beggars Club). It’s kinda long, sorry about that.
    *****
    I raced through Judy’s Passage towards Commons Lane, my books tucked tightly under my arm, hoping I’d get enough time to scarf down tea and a biscuit during chambers before I had to return to div. Knowing my luck, I’d end up fagging for some 5th form instead.

    Passing through a courtyard behind a throng of other F-blockers, someone yelled, “Hey, doxy boy!”

    I and several others turned around to see who the boy was yelling at and a slog of slimy mud hit me in the face. I dropped my books and stood there, frozen, my mouth hanging open and my heart pounding in my ears. What the devil? After a stunned second, I tore my hands across my face to scrape off the muck.

    A chorus of laughter rang in my ears. I swiped over my eyes, barely able to open them enough to see a throng of sixth form boys—Specialists, they were called—bent over, clutching their stomachs and howling with laughter. A few of them clapped each other on the shoulder and pointed at me, apparently congratulating each other on their direct hit.

    I wiped my hands on my trousers and scrubbed at my face again. Bending down, I picked up my wet schoolbooks, which lay in a muddy puddle. Blast. I would get a lecture for that. And likely a caning. My lower lip trembled and tears threatened to erupt, and I silently prayed no one would notice.

    An audience had formed around us, pupils of various ages, their expressions eager to see what would happen next. One of the taller boys, his brown hair curling out from under his hat, detached himself from the group and came sauntering up to me. He pushed me in the shoulder, hard, forcing me to step back.

    “You’re Tradwick’s son, aren’t you?” he asked with a sneer.

    I glared up at him, trying to look formidable even as my insides quaked. “What if I am.”

    He turned back to his friends and snickered. “It is him. I told you.” They whooped with laughter.

    I clenched my wet books tight under my arm and narrowed my eyes at the boy standing before me. “I said what if I am?”

    Whirling back to face me, he leaned closer, and his mirth vanished. God, he looked like the very devil. “I can’t believe your father had the gall to send you up here.”

    “Why wouldn’t he? He’s an Etonian.”

    The boy sneered. “Because you’d be schooling with boys whose fathers know your mama…intimately.”

    My breath hitched, and a cold sweat came over me. I swallowed over my barely formed Adam’s apple. “What do you know of my mother?”

    The boy laughed derisively. “What don’t we know. She’s is a doxy. A curtezan. A whore.” He paused, eyeing me up and down, his dissatisfied expression indicating he didn’t like what he saw. “She was my father’s tart for awhile. Until he tired of her.” He gestured to his friends, who were glaring at me now, malice in their eyes. “Same for Bentley’s father.”

    Mama had hardly been circumspect in her indiscretions. Granted, I hadn’t thought I’d be confronted by them. But she’d been living in Italy for months with some count and there was nothing I could do, so I shrugged, feigning indifference.

    Turning his gaze back on me, he said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “She’s slept with the entirety of London society because your father couldn’t do one simple thing.” His narrowed eyes taunted me. “He couldn’t keep her satisfied.”

    Catcalls and whoops sounded around me, and all the boys, even those watching, broke into laughter.

    My face reddened, and I clenched my fists, my jaw hard as granite. This prick could say whatever he liked about Mama and I wouldn’t argue. Hell, I’d probably agree. But Papa had suffered so much after Mama’s departure, turning within himself, into a hollow shell of the happy father he once was. He’d stopped speaking to me. Stopped playing chess with me. Showed no interested in me. He’d become a specter, a ghost, and losing him had devastated me more than Mama leaving.
    I’d be damned if I’d let this prick besmirch my father’s name.

    Dropping my books on the ground, I took a step towards my adversary, my chest puffed out in challenge. “What did you say?”

    The boy stopped laughing, his mouth turning down in another dismissive sneer. “You heard me, Doxy Boy. Your sire’s sugar stick ain’t sweet enough. Not for her, not for anyone, I daresay.” Sniggers sounded all around me. The boy looked around at his audience and grinned. Waving his arm at me, he said, “Your papa ain’t virile enough for a lady. Wouldn’t know what to do with one if she fell into his lap. In fact”—he leaned closer—“you’re probably some other nobleman’s whelp.”

    “Bastard! Bastard!” the other boys cried out with glee.

    My face flushed even more, and those blasted tears I’d tried to hide earlier popped out, running down my face.

    The boy burst out laughing, pointing at me. “Look at him! Crying! Doxy Boy is crying.”

    Rage consumed me as choruses of “bastard” rang in my ears. I would show this monkey’s arse what I thought of his insult. With a shout, I ran forward, my arms out, and tackled him. We both fell to the ground with a grunt, and I quickly straddled him, throwing angry punches at his cheeks, his nose, his chin, mumbling a litany of curses under my breath.

    The boy put up his arms to block my punches, and I felt someone grab my arms and pull me back. Two of the other boys in their group had come forward in defense of their friend, hauling me off the older boy, who still lay on the ground, a trickle of blood flowing from the corner of his lip.

    My heart surged with pride. I’d scored a hit on the bloody nitwit’s face. But my elation was short-lived as one of the other boys slugged me in the stomach. I cried out, wincing, as pain radiated throughout my midsection. My legs wobbled and I leaned forward, but two strong boys held me upright by my arms, like Jesus on the cross.

    The tall boy, whose angry eyes never left mine, got up from the ground and dusted himself off. Around us, the crowd of boys grew tighter, their faces eager, their eyes bright, as they continued their primal, rhythmic chants of “bastard, bastard.”

    I struggled against the two boys holding me, but they wouldn’t let go. “Take him, Greenwood,” one of my captors shouted to the tall boy, and the other boys offered vocal encouragement.

    Greenwood came charging forward, his expression dark and contorted, and thrust his fist into my gut.

    I moaned as the crowd cheered. I tried to double over, but the pricks holding me kept me upright.

    “This is for your tart of a mother turning my father’s head,” Greenwood growled, and punched me again.

    I couldn’t even moan anymore, and instead coughed as tears streamed down my face and spittle dangled from my lip. Damn you, Mama. Damn you to hell.

    He leaned over and clenched my shoulder hard, his mouth right by my ear. “And this is for what her actions did to my mother,” he ground out. Digging his fingers into my shoulder, he heaved his other fist into me once more to the cheers of the boys that surrounded us.

    I cried out, moaning, and my legs collapsed from under me. The two boys holding me released my arms, and I fell to the ground, curling into the fetal position and desperately willing the pain in my insides to go away.

    A few of Greenwood’s friends kicked my legs and back for good measure, but I kept quiet. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of hearing me cry out again. The crowd slowly dispersed and I lay there, eyes closed, wishing the ground would swallow me up.

    “Are you all right?” A voice, not quite a boy’s but not quite a man’s, sounded behind me.

    “Leave me alone,” I mumbled.

    The scuff of feet came close to my head and I winced, expecting another thrashing. Instead, someone patted me on the shoulder. “They’ve all gone,” the voice said. “Although they did make a mess of your school books.”

    I opened my eyes tentatively and turned my head to look up.

    Above me was a boy about my age, his brown, wavy hair swept over his forehead. He gave a crooked smile. “I’m Nate. Who are you?”

    Closing my eyes, I planted my hands on the ground and struggled to a sitting position. A flare of pain flashed in my side and I sucked in a breath. “Tradwick. Philip Tradwick,” I said through clenched teeth.

    “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Philip,” Nate said. “Can we call you that?”

    We who?

    “Those stupid Specialists. Think they rule the place,” said another voice.

    “They do,” said the first boy. Nate, was it? “This is Ben,” Nate said.

    I looked over as Nate gestured to the shorter, brown-haired boy beside him.

    “We knew each other before Eton,” Nate said. “Do you have any friends here?”

    I hung my head and shook it. “Papa sent me here because he’s an Etonian.”

    “Our fathers are, too.” Ben crouched down next to me, dropping his books onto the ground. “Shall I help you get up?”

    No. Never. I didn’t need their help. Shaking my head, I struggled to my feet, wincing as every muscle, tendon, and sinew screamed in agitated protest. Who knew getting beat up would hurt so damn bad? Papa had never warned me of this type of thrashing, that was for certain.

    Nate handed me my books, soggy and dripping wet. “I’m afraid they’re quite useless.”

    I shrugged. It didn’t matter. I was late for div, completely missed chambers, and my dame would give me hell for having to clean my clothes for a third time that week.

    “What house are you in?” Ben asked.

    “Langford.”

    Both boys’ eyes opened wide. “You are? So are we,” Nate said. “I wonder that we haven’t seen you.”

    “I…I don’t know,” I said. I hung my head and swiped at the wetness on my face, hoping these two didn’t notice. Why did the other boys have to see my cry? I fisted my hands, angry at myself for my total lack of courage and stoicism. If I’d taken Greenwood’s taunts like a man, he might have left me alone. “Damn. Damn, damn, damn.” I pounded my thigh repeatedly, my blood boiling with rage—at myself. I would get over the physical beating I’d received, but Greenwood’s words had cut deep. Just as Mama’s leaving had tortured Papa.

    I vowed right then and there to never again let anyone see how they hurt me.

    “Come on.” Ben nudged me by the shoulder. “Let’s get Miss Langford to clean you up.” He and Nate began walking towards Keate’s Lane.

    I didn’t move. “What about div?”

    Ben turned around and walked backwards. “The beak is my former tutor. He’ll not mind when I explain what happened.” Smiling, he gestured for me to follow. “Let’s go. You’re with us now.” He turned back around and continued down the cobblestones.

    “Yes, you’re with us. Now get a move on.” Nate smiled and waved me along.

    I kept my expression bland, but inside, something shifted, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged. Hiding a smile, I tucked my soggy books under my arm and stumbled after them.

    • I’m glad to see that Philip is making friends! Since his inauguration at Eton doesn’t seem to be going that well and his parents have abandoned him. Nice work, Justine! It looks like your series is off to a great start.

  2. People—all of you out there in 8LWland—I want to tell you that it’s worth breaking the stay-at-home order to get one of Elizabeth’s sticky pecan rolls. I’ve had one, and they are divine. But in my effort to reduce the number of ventilators the country needs, I’ll stay at home. If only I had yeast. And, okay, pecans. And also, baking talent….

    Anyway, the sprint was fun! If only I had a pecan roll to celebrate.

    Coming to You Live
    “Your helicopter’s here,” Felix Martindale yelled from the other side of the bathroom door to his older sister Clover, who was barricaded inside. “The pilot says he’s leaving in five minutes if you’re not ready.”

    Clover Martindale leaned into the bathroom mirror and with a vicious yank, ripped the wax off her upper lip. There. You couldn’t appear on regional television with the shadow of a moustache. The viewers would Twitter you to death.

    “You tell that pilot he doesn’t leave until I tell him to leave,” Clover yelled back.

    “Don’t blame me,” Felix said, clattering down the stairs. “I’m just the messenger.”

    Clover examined today’s outfit. The network favored bland suits, ordering her to eschew the bold prints and horizontal stripes that they said made her look fat on the small screen. This morning show was supposed to have been her fairytale job, but so far it had turned her into a neurotic mess, forcing her to hide who she really was. She feared that the danger was that she’d never remember. It wouldn’t be many months before her personality—not to mention her style—would be forever deleted.

    Enough.

    She didn’t have many weapons at her disposal. But if she was going down, she’d make that downfall memorable.

    Everybody else was working from home. She would, too.

    She put on her red and purple geometric print bathrobe—it was a morning show, for heaven’s sake, she might as well dress for the occasion—and picked up her microphone. Today, the viewers would get the bald, unvarnished Clover Martindale.

    Let the clickbait begin.

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