Project Orion {Camp recap + mandatory beta reader signup}

(wow it has been ages since i’ve posted here on steeplechase. i apologize for that. school and animation projects and stuff like camp nanowrimo have been keeping me busy.)
(i have 50 followers! should i be doing anything special for that milestone?)
(PO = Project Orion. my wittle novel project that takes up most of my brain RAM these days.)

sharpie

Camp Recap

March 30th: This Camp, I’m going to go through my 2017 Nano, Project Orion, and edit it into something I can give to beta-readers.

April 6th: Well, this novel is ridiculous. I don’t know why I forgot that it’s spazzy, weirdly-paced, and has the craziest rambly details. (Yeah, three paragraphs about comic book plotlines are not really important to the story.) So let’s just rewrite the stupid thing. What could go wrong?

April 15th: I haven’t progressed in days. And the more I think about it, the more stupid it is. My inciting incident is horrible, there are characters that do nothing for the plot, and my setting is irrelevant. I guess I could write it…but I’m bored. And if I’m bored, what are my readers going to be like?

April 25th: Help. This is going to be the first Nano I’ve ever lost. I need to talk to Madison.

Madison: Change your goal.
Me: What I need to change is my story.
Madison: So why don’t you?
Me: Like…plotting?
Madison: Yep. Change your goal to a plotting goal. Write out stuff about your story. You’ll be better off.

April 30th:

apr2b30252c2b20182b11253a51253a552bpm
this is what happens to you when you don’t sleep well for five or six days and you win fifteen minutes before midnight.

sharpie

My Project

po adhd
This is one thicc boi.

Goal: 50 pages of planning, notes, character development, or ranting on how horrible PO is. (Well, I didn’t want to rant, but I ended up ranting in some places. Hehe.)

I completed the goal: at 11:45 pm on April 30, 2018.

Translation: I WROTE 50 PAGES IN FIVE DAYS. And 23 of those pages were on the last day. HAHAHAHAHA *psychotic laughter fades into the distance*

Now.

You know what time it is.

It’s time for…

Project Orion ADHD Notes: Snippets

Here we go.

(Snippets that are LIKE THIS (and then like this) are page titles. You can see what I’m talking about in the picture above.

sharpie

Hurricane Snippets (run for your lives)

How did the flashdrive get into the antique shop anyways? It’s like they found it behind some Hubba Bubba or something…I really don’t need anymore throwbacks to The Winter Soldier in this nano. I ALREADY HAVE A COMPUTER MAN AND A COMPLETELY ALTRUISTICALLY ADORABLE MC.

Before we get any further in, I should probably say that most of this was written past 3:00 in the morning. It gets a little….well, I called it ADHD planning for a reason. (K.M. Weiland would personally kill me.)

Ways to tipoff the tipoff (brainstorming):
– a robbery of something important
– a break-in

– a natural disaster

– FLYING MANTA RAYSSSSSSS

(“Flying manta rays” is a house term usually describing that-thing-that-you-never-planned-to-put-in-your-novel-but-ended-up-in-there-because-you-were-like-“Hey-wouldn’t-manta-rays-look-cool-as-flying-animals?-Like-seriously-they-could-flap-their-unifinwing-and-be-like-a-living-magic-carpet.”
Or it refers to deus ex machina. Either one.)

And Nero is just hating everyone. XD.

(Nero is the main antagonist.)

Nero has no sympathy for:
– his colleagues
– his fellow Davi-followers
– his friends
– anyone’s feelings
– anyone’s plans
– anyone’s self-esteem
– the lawmakers
– anything.
PERCENT OF HIS BRAIN USED FOR CARING: 0%.

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION
(whoops, I don’t have one?)

It’s like you accidentally bought a T-rex thinking it was a frilled lizard.

I want to waste paper and do this the fun way.

(Don’t look at me like that. All I wanted to do was draw bubbles and arrows. *pfft* Hypocrite.)

Omw. Is this a good ol’ classic story?
I love it. It’s a familiar story…IN DISGUISE……

DO THEY KNOW OR NOT?
(settling how stupid Leo and his frens are)

Looks like I need to add this to the plotty plot thingie.

(I just called my plot a “plotty plot thingie.” SAY THAT AGAIN, IN SLOW MOTION.)

Kablam – Project Orion!

In the words of a wise man:
“This is legitness!”

And then poor Dav-Davs kicked the bucket, because cancer.

(Prehistory. No one dies of cancer in PO.)

Meet Mystical Hipster Who Now Looks Like A Hipster Raisin Because Hipstering Is So 2018.

(Post history. I wanted to think about a sequel so that I’d know how to end PO. So I made up a new character…accidentally…and she’s weird. Oh boy.)

*crickets*
What was I talking about?

MJ GETS TRIGGERED
(and other stories)

GOOD THINGS ABOUT PO
(i want to feel good right now)
Leo Cordova.
Never mind, all the charries.
But Nero in particular.
AND SYRE SHANKHOR. LEMME HUG DAT BOI.

Heterochromia.
STUFF. ACTUALLY. HAPPENS.
It’s so sequelable.

Wide variety of MBTI.
Diverse charries
and………………………………………
THE FACT THAT I MADE ALL OF IT UP.

Thus endeth the snippets. *dies*

sharpie

What next?

Wow. I didn’t expect you to survive that. But here you are, ready to be barraged with…

MORE INFORMATION.

PO is a long way from being done. I mean a distance-from-the-Sun-to-Pluto long way. But it is started, and I have something like a game plan for it. Yay.

Tess’ Tentative Schedule For Completing Project Orion

(okay half the reason I named it Project Orion is so that when people ask me what I’m doing, I can be like, “Oh, I’m working on….” *mysterious toss of head* “…Project Orion.”)

By May 13th: Finish planning. Write out a little guide sheet so I can remember where I need to foreshadow my ridiculous plot.

May 14th – June 30th: Write it. Yeah, just like that. This is Draft #2. (Draft #1 is the aforementioned piece of trash that meanders around and uses weird metaphors.)

July 1st – July 30th: Take a break from PO and write something totally different for July camp. I can’t go burning myself out…

August 1st: Release PO to my hungry beta-readers…

…that I need to have a definitive list of.

I know several of you have raised your hands when I’ve asked you if you want to beta read. But I don’t have a list list.

If you want to beta read PO, you must sign up below. It is MANDATORY. If you do not fill in the simple form below, then you will not be on the list of beta readers and that first chapter will not show up in your inbox on August 1st. Even if you’ve told me in person, or through the camp message board, or anywhere elseYOU. MUST. SIGN. UP. WITH. THIS. FORM.

Click me to sign up for beta reading!

(Look, I even made it a Typeform, so it would be fun. Link opens in a new tab.)

sharpie

How I know I’m excited about PO

  • I think about my charries like they’re real.
  • When I’m doing something, I muse about how each of my charries would do it.
  • I make references to it, laugh hysterically, and then stare at everyone around me like not getting my personal jokes is a social crime.
  • I write about it in my journal once a night.
  • My next animation will feature PO charries (because my people drawing skills have gotten wayyy better)
  • I made virtual Funko Pops of all of them.

Ahahahaha! You want to see the Project Orion Funko Pop collection, don’t you? Time for another round of…

Secrets

(shhhh…)

Steps to complete secret mission and unlock the PO Pops:

  1. In one of the pictures in this post, I shared my last name. Find my last name and write it down.
  2. Go to the Secrets page (located on the top, next to the trophy shelf. It’s hard to miss.)
  3. Enter my last name as the password in all lowercase.
  4. See the Pops. I also provided a link to the tool I used to make them. But I’m not going to give you that link here….you’ll just have to go unlock the Secrets page. >:)
  5. Leave a comment, if you want.

sharpie

Did you sign up for beta reading? Which snippet was your favorite? How was your Camp Nanowrimo?

(I’ll respond to whatever you comment below – probably in all caps/no caps/complete disregard of grammar and punctuation, which is awful in writing but somehow okay in commenting? I never understood that, but I do it anyways. :))

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

 

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House Of Ghosts {AAWC Challenge #3}

Welcome back to what I’m calling The Saga Of Nedicent 😉 This installment is a bit rushed, and I regret that, but I’m the one personally responsible for holding back the next challenge because I begged Zielle to let me turn in late. Sorry, guys. So here it is, from Millicent’s POV.

Domesday-book-1804x972

A cold gust of wind threaded its way through the crowded buildings of Burton-On-Thames, blowing the fishermen’s hats away and unraveling the braids on the working horses. It crept up under the hood of my cape, taking a piece of my dark hair loose from behind my ear and sweeping it across my eyes. I pushed it off in annoyance as I pulled the warm, red cloth tighter around my thin shoulders.

At the corner where Shobnall Street and Borough Road interstect, a stylish carriage rattled through a puddle, sending a stinging spray of dirty, melted snow and pebbles in my direction. Fortunately, the cloak caught most of the stains, and how fortunate, too – I would have hated to see the silk I foolishly chose to wear today ruined by a careless, flippant, stuck-up coachman.

It always seemed to happen that way with me. I started the day telling myself I was going to be elegant, composed, and upper-class. Then, I’d get caught up in whatever I was doing and end up dirty, tired, but triumphant. Today was no exception. This morning, when I’d awoken, I knew in the back of my mind that I had important, troubling things to do. But my favorite silk dress called out to me from the wardrobe, just begging me to wear it and look sophisticated, dainty and upper-class.

If I had really been a part of the upper class, I would have been up in a drawing room, wearing silk slippers and possibly playing a spinet on this blustery January day. But though my father had money, he was an outcast of society, and so here I was, continuing the chain of eccentricity as I splashed through the puddles in his boots.

Finally, I came to the address I was seeking, climbed up the stairs between the two stone dragons guarding its entry. The townhouse was slowly being conquered by armies of vivacious ivy and overgrown bushes. The gardener that used to maintain the foliage had died almost a decade before. So had, for that matter, the cook, the maid, and the butler.

And now, Sir Giles Dawson himself was no more.

I hadn’t believed Father when he’d broken the news to me. It didn’t seem possible that he could no longer be living the square, gothic townhome hidden by leaves. But it had been true, unfortunately. And being his only real friend, it was my job to go through the dark, cozy rooms and gather the things he wouldn’t have wanted to be sold.

It pained me, to stand there, to know that there would be no Sir Dawson waiting for me inside, his feet propped on the footstool, his knobbly hands on the book in his lap, his square shoulders covered by the damask bathrobe he always wore. He wouldn’t greet me with his elusive smile, ask me to throw another log in the fireplace, or complain to me about how unjust the world was.

Everyone always whispered behind my back about my friendship with him, but always loud enough for me to hear, so they could impart to me their views on my visiting him. The ladies thought I had no business associating with an unrelated man four times my age. That would be true if he weren’t so lonely and sour and fed up with the world that had rejected him. I was good for him, Father said. Father’s friends, however, called me a forest maiden – because I ‘associated with the animals of the forest, particularly the grumpy, cross, bear known as Sir Dawson’.

I raised my hand to the the brass knocker, the griffon’s head on the door, then remembered that no one lived within anymore. I used to have knock – it was a stipulation of his. Then he’d say, “Herein!” in his gruff voice, and I’d unlock it with the key I had.

Those days were sadly passed, though. I reached into the pocket sewn to the inside of my cloak, pulled out the brass key with the cobalt string round the top of it. I slid it into the keyhole. The click it made as it met the lock seemed to echo in the entryway. As I pushed the heavy, mahongany door open, a smell of stillness met me. If it was possible for loneliness to smell like anything, this was its scent.

The entryway was dark, even darker after I closed the door behind me. I reached for the little table next to the door, found the matches and lit a candle. The only reason I knew they were even there was because I’d put it there.

The haunting, dancing, yellow-orange light filled the low-ceilinged entry, with its foreboding paisley carpet, sordid walls and oppressive crown moulding. The parlour, or, what I could see of it through the doorway to my right, was a pool of blackness. So was the dining room on my left and the hallway before me. I moved toward that hall, the light creeping over the floor and pushing away the darkness that surrounded me. At the same time, it felt as if the dark was breathing down my neck, getting closer and closer behind me as the candle danced away.

Sir Dawson had not entertained a single person while he had lived here. So, naturally, the dining room and parlour both were frightfully bare. Not a single trinket or item of intrigue lived in them, not even to gather dust. The only thing I ever recalled seeing in the dining room that wasn’t a piece of unmoved furniture was a set of blue wedgewood dishes peering out from behind the glass doors of the china cabinet. I’d learned they’d been his only inheritance from a long-dead uncle he never had liked. There was a personal joke accompanying them, one that made him smile saucily every time he thought about the set. But it was a joke I would never know.

I skipped those two rooms entirely, aiming straight for the stairs at the end of the hallway. I knew he didn’t have anything he cared about downstairs, because he lived upstairs, where his bedroom and study were. And this was where I knew he kept the only possessions that mattered to him.

The light trembled about as I took it up the stairs, each step bringing me closer to the rooms of reminiscence and memories. Never did I imagine that these memories would be painful to recall.

I arrived at the top of the stairs, my feet dragging slower and slower. I might as well get the hardest part over with, I figured. So even though I did not want to open that door and drown myself in a torrent of retrospection, I forced my wrist to turn the doorknob and my feet to step over the threshold.

Sir Dawson’s study, his office, was where he had spent most of his time. But it didn’t feel like it belonged to him anymore, not without his robed countenance sitting in the chair, telling me that I was fashionably late. Without him there, without his watchful gaze on the bookshelves, his feet on the footstool, his papers and ink on the desk and his curmudgeonly voice resonating through the wood paneling, the study felt as if it were in mourning, too.

My skirt brushed against the blackout curtains pulled agressively over the windows. I wondered who had done that. He’d always liked them open, despite his reclusiveness – he had liked to ‘look down upon the street, so’s I know what I’m missing’ (his words, not mine).

Why did I love him so much? The question flitted through my self-conscious as I ran the tips of my fingers over the book still face-down on his endtable, open to the place where he’d left it. He was a pessimistic curmudgeon at best; a depressing crank with barbarian manners to the less accepting set. I put up with his antics, though. Furthermore, I actually saw him as a friend. But why?

I kept mulling it over as I opened the curtains, letting in the soft, ambient light, filtered through the sordid January clouds outside. Securing them with the ties on the wall, I looked around at the room, still awaiting its master’s return. I hadn’t the heart to say that Sir Dawson wasn’t coming back. I could barely convince myself that truth.

I shook my head to clear it. Though I would have loved to sit in the chair he’d sat in for so many hours and let my emotions flow freely, I had a job to do. It was up to me to make sure that his important things were safe from his so-called friends. I strode over to his desk, trying to let the confidence pulsate through me. He had to have written a will. In my tulmultous state of mind, I needed to have everything spelled out for me.

He had said he kept the most important things out of sight. I opened the drawer on his desk, which was little more than a writing table. In that drawer, amid a nest of various papers, writing utensils, and a bundle of red string, was the document I sought.

He wrote it out on very thick, very nice paper, with a seal on the top. I took it over to the window so I could read the cramped, crabbed handwriting.

Last Will And Testament Of Sir Giles Dawson

I, Sir Giles Dawson, of Burton-On-Thames, Essex, England, declare this Document to be my final Will and Testament.

After jumping through the hoops of legality (no, he was not married, he had no children, either), the document circled round to the part everyone would be hanging on – if he had any friends, that is.

To Miss Millicent Blair, the daughter of Mr. John Blair, of Burton-On-Thames, Essex, England, the following is to be bequeathed: the set of wedgewood china in the dining room; in the bedroom, the marble bust of Plato, along with any books to be found near and around the bed; and in the study, the library, writing desk, green wingback chair, globe and porcelain elephant.

There was not much more to be read after that paragraph, just that he wished everything else to be sold and the money given to none other than myself. I lay the paper down on the windowsill and sighed. What was I to do with these things now? They didn’t look the same without him.

I meandered out the door, still thinking, only half-noticing what I was doing. The light from the windows now spilled out over the threshold. I opened the bedroom door, barely discerning the form of the tall, four-poster bed as I made straight for the window. As I pulled back the curtains, the room awoke in shades of grey, just as the study had.

His bed was unmade. I proceeded to pull the sheets up to the top, pulling a book or two out from the foot of the mattress, where they’d become tangled in the bedclothes.

Plumping the pillows and setting them right, the thought that I was essentially being a maid crossed my mind. I pushed it out promptly. It was worth getting dirty to set everything in order for him.

There was a small pile of books on his sidetable, burying the ornate glass oil lamp with the dirty chimney. I stacked them neatly, arranging them from largest to smallest. As I kept adding to the stack, picking up the books scattered on the floor and over the top of the dresser, I realized that Sir Dawson’s insomnia had been more severe than I’d thought. He must have kept the oil burning very late every night to read all of these.

Soon I had at least five and twenty books stacked neatly on the bench at the foot of his bed. It occurred to me that the room smelled quite nasty, rather like sleep and smoke. Unlocking the window, I slid up the casement, and let the blustery but refreshing breeze ruffle the curtains around the bed. Then I went over to the wardrobe.

Two suits were hanging on the front of it. I opened the door to reveal his hastily stuffed closet. Running my hand between the suits to smooth them out,  I realized that he probably only had the other two out because he hadn’t any more room inside. And it wasn’t like he wore anything but his dressing gown, anyways. As I lifted the tails of a musty-smelling tailcoat, something in the bottom of the wardrobe caught my eye, faintly luminiscent. I picked it up. It was the gold banding across the spine of yet another book.

Hauling thirteen more books out of the wardrobe, I began to see that I had a ticklish problems on my hands. I couldn’t take these books, not when felt like they still belonged to him. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy them if I could still hear his voice reading a paragraph out of them.

As I was bent over, reluctantly checking to see if there were any more books in the wardrobe, something brushed against my cheek. I pushed it out of the way, but it swung back towards me. I fingered it. It was the tailcoat.

With the fabric in between my fingers, a conversation slowly twirled its way back to my consciousness.

They say two hundred books are published every day.

It had been nearly a month since that night, the twenty-second of December. Thirty-eight books, plus the five or six hundred in the library on the other side of the wall, equalled – I rubbed the tailcoat between my fingers as I made the calculation – roughly ten percent of the books Mr. Glasscock should have read by now.

I stood there, still fingering the tailcoat, staring at the stack of books, for a solid minute, as the realization occurred to me.

I could not decide for the life of me what it was.

Domesday-book-1804x972

Yeah, it’s not as good as Ettiquette. But I stretched out something Millie could have told Ned in one line to 2500 words. NAILED IT.

Prompts used:

Le bear picture.

I intended to illustrate this but yeah I’m still working on those faces. XD But I did mention my team name and the prompt in the same sentence – bonus points?

Father’s friends, however, called me an elfin maiden – because I ‘associated with the animals of the forest, particularly the grumpy, cross, bear known as Sir Dawson’.

1 point (participation) + 1 point (prompt) + 1 point (team name) = 3 points

*whimpers* Oh, that’s frightfully low. Go Team Forest!

What did you think? Are you looking forward to the next installment of Ned and Millie’s story? It’s going to be told by a very side character this time…

Sayonara, I’m going to try not to cringe at this piece,

{Tess}

Etiquette {AAWC Challenge #1}

Let me preface by saying that I had completely forgotten about this challenge until Zielle posted about it and I saw my name in Team Forest.

Let me also say that I didn’t really care for these particular prompts, so I sort of just winged it. (Wung it?)

But let me finally say that I love what came out of this.

Here is my newest short story Etiquette. Enjoy.

fabca33542d54567a3e0b690c1fb5044-clock-tattoo-design-clock-tattoos

I shoved my hands in the pockets of my tailcoat, even though I knew it looked odd. But it wasn’t like like I cared. I had wanted to stay home tonight. I had wanted to continue with my enthralling study on fourteenth-century architecture. In fact, about the last thing I had wanted to do was to get dressed up and go socialize.

But Robin, in that that annoyingly enthusiastic way of his, had promised the host that I’d be there – to “get a bit of air and exercise his smile”, he’d said. And when I’d loudly protested, he’d grinned, like he was enjoying it.

“I’ll be sick that day!” I had threatened.

“I’ll call up the doctor. He can give you a placebo,” was his wry reply.

I sulkily leaned against the pillar behind me. Well, he could make me come, but he couldn’t make me be happy about it.

I caught sight of the top of his head in the sea of people before me. It was unmistakable. He was very ginger, and his hair was pushed up in the front – he had a habit of running his fingers through it when agitated. He was weaving through the crowd, dodging servants with trays of prawns and champagne and trying not to step on anyone’s toes.

Finally, he broke through the crowd. I pretended I hadn’t seen him, because the look on his face was unmistakable. He was coming to chew me up about being a wallflower, and I was going to have to expend some effort and tell him he couldn’t force me to do anything.

He stopped just a few feet from me. “Come on, Ned, I didn’t bring you here so you could sit over here and pout.”

“Well, that’s what I’m doing,” I replied. “Any questions?”

He shook his head, smiling a bit. “I just can’t imagine how you could prefer doing nothing to Yuletide.”

I was actually thinking over intelligent topics, but I decided not to test my luck. “Your cravat is crooked,” I said critically.

“Yours would be too if you were having any fun.”

I shrugged. “Maybe your idea of fun. I’d rather be doing something intellectually enriching.”

“I’ll choose to not be offended by that.” He chuckled. “But come on, the only other person sitting out is Dr. Matterhorn over there.”

“It’s because he’s smart.”

“It’s because he’s a sociophobe,” he whispered, smiling grinchily. “Bring honor to our name and be a bit less reclusive, for heaven’s sake.”

“I’ll do what I want, thank you.”

For a moment, I thought that rebuff was going to work. He stood there and looked at me for at least ten seconds. Then I saw the naughty idea twinkle in his blue eyes.

He took me by the shoulders and turned me round to face the party. There were people I knew, people I didn’t know, people I recalled seeing but couldn’t think where. I felt him grab my upper arm. His hand could almost go the whole way round it.

“Well,” he said as he started to drag me along, “if you won’t come on your own, I suppose I can lend a hand.”

“Let go of me,” I replied, trying not to make a scene. But he kept striding on, nearly pulling me out of my shoes at times. Finally, he let go of my arm. I pulled away, brushed my sleeve off. How embarrassing.

Robin smiled amiably. “Social interaction, courtesy of big brother. If I catch you back on that wall I’ll make you dance. Understand?”

I crossed my arms. “I’m not promising anything.”

He shrugged. “You’d best find a lady you like, then.”

At least he left me alone after that. I began to think of ways I could get out of this situation. Though I may not have been able to confront Robin physically, I definitely could outwit him. Or so I thought.

I must have looked quite odd. Here I was, standing in the middle of a Christmas party, staring down at my shoes with a face of inner turmoil.

“Heart been broken again?”

I turned around. A man was standing behind me, speaking from behind a furry mustache. He was short, stout and was wearing spats. He had his head back and was dangling a prawn over his open mouth. I furrowed my brow and just looked at him askance.

“It happens to the best of us, son. ‘Many a head will rest on pillows wet with tears as prejudice and fear mar the perfect world that spins about our ears.'”

There were many things I could have said that would have sent him packing. But I was curious now, though desperate not to let him know that. I’d learned that people like him thrive on people’s curiosity and disbelief.

“Beg pardon?” I said.

“It’s by Kaiser. Good, isn’t it? But it doesn’t detract from he situation you’ve found yourself in.”

“What situation?”

He looked at me like I was daft. “Why, your pickle, is there any other?” He didn’t wait for me to answer. “You love her deeply, just pining away, but when you work up enough courage to tell her that, she rejects you.”

“Who?”

“You, silly!”

“No, no, I’m rejected by whom?”

He adjusted the bluish crystal monocle in his left eye. “Why, I don’t know. I’m not a gipsy fortune-teller. Be a good boy and tell me, won’t you?”

Some people. “Firstly, I’m not a boy. I’m nearly twenty as it is. Secondly, I’m currently pining away for no one.”

“Well, I wouldn’t be either if she had done the same to me.”

“No, no, I never was.”

He chuckled, patting his belt line. He wore his trousers very high, so that was about right at his navel. Or so I estimated. “Come now, son, don’t be prickly. I do understand that this is a difficult time in your life, but I assure you, you’ll weather through it. You’ll come out on the other side wizened, but -”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

He stopped, his mouth still open, then closed it like a spectacle case. “It’s rather rude to stop a man from sharing his words, don’t you think?”

“I prefer not to play by the rules of society, if you please.”

“Aha, so you’re a rebel, are you?”

I didn’t want to explain. There wasn’t any way to speak my mind without offending him. My actual position in the matter? Parties are pointless and are basically cesspools of people like this man – people who won’t leave you alone. But at last he found a new victim to heckle, and sauntered off, seizing a cup of punch from a tray as it passed over his head.

Sighing audibly with relief, I tried to remember where my train of thought had been before he’d derailed it. Ah, yes. I was plotting escape. In all this mess, it shouldn’t be too hard to slip off when no one was watching, to retreat in a cab to my lovely study with its bright fire and claustrophobic bookcases. So where was the exit?

I craned my neck, trying to see above the hubbub I was within. The room was very large – it had a balcony skirting the walls that was supported by thick columns of white granite. I suppose the architect put it in just so the people like me could have a birds-eye view of the frivolities below. Between two of these pillars, I remembered there being a set of gilded double doors, which we had come in through.

A glint of gold caught my eye. One of these doors had been opened – by a certain man with orange hair pushed up in the front. Once he’d closed it again, he picked up his glass where he’d set it down and leaned against the jamb.

Well, so much for that. I wondered whether he’d done it on purpose or not. It could go either way. But there had to be another exit. Wasn’t that required by the fire marshal or something? I turned around to inspect the walls – and nearly ran over a lady in a white organza gown.

It is one thing to be rude to a nosy old man or a pushy brother. But I would have had to have no soul to tell a lady she was in my way, particularly when she hadn’t directly annoyed me yet. That’s the troubling thing with ladies – they lack self-confidence, so if anyone tells them to go away, they take it personally. Perhaps I did spend too much time in my study, but I had read an ettiquette book or two.

“Excuse me,” I said apologetically. Or, rather, as apologetically as I could manage.

She chuckled. “No trouble, no trouble.”

We looked at each other for a moment.

“You look distressed,” she said. Was it that apparent? “Is there something wrong?”

Composure, Ned, composure. “Not horribly. I’m just looking forward to getting back to my study, that’s all.”

She considered that for a bit. “You read a great deal, then?”

I nodded. “You can’t change much about yourself, but you can improve your intellect.”

“Intriguing,” she said, the word coming awkwardly off her tongue. It was evident that she’d been waiting for a chance to use it. “Are you attending a university?”

“Hopefully, I will be soon. Until then, I’ll learn as much as I can on my own.”

We were silent for a bit.

“What brings you to the ball, then?” she asked, cocking her head.

“Peer pressure.” I caught sight of Robin, now occupying a clearing in a forest of people. He seemed to be giving a speech of sort, perhaps telling one of his stories. The room was too large for me to tell which it was. “I’d much rather have spent tonight at home.”

That comment slipped out without my realizing it. I instantly regretted it. Maybe I hadn’t read as many ettiquette books as I should have. You don’t tell people you wish you were elsewhere while at a ball; rather, you’re supposed to give the impression that you are having the time of your life, even if it’s not true. That’s the other thing about party manners – you have to say a lot of things that aren’t expressly realistic, just to save your face.

I worked up enough courage to glance over at her. She was looking at me. I looked away. Yes, she had heard me, but she wasn’t affronted. In fact, she looked…curious?

“You certainly have no problems saying what’s on your mind,” she finally said.

Oh, this was embarassing. “It’s a symptom of solitude, I’m afraid. I apologize.”

“Don’t be sorry,” she chuckled. “It is nice to know that there’s someone here who says the truth.” She didn’t say it with a trite tone and genteel manners. There was a spicy tone to her voice, like she had been lied to, perhaps indirectly.

“If I can be so bold as to make a hypothesis, I’d say we’re agreed on the subject of parties.”

“I’m not exactly enchanted by them, if that’s what you’re suggesting.”

We looked at eachother significantly. She laughed. Without really realizing it, we began to walk together, just observing our surroundings in eachother’s company.

“I suppose it’s a nice change of scenery,” she said, gesturing toward a garland of holly curled around the railing of the staircase.

“It’s a prison cell,” I muttered.

“Hmm?”

“Nothing.” We moved closer toward the railing, shoulders touching as a woman in a very large skirt passed us. “I was being sarcastic.”

We were up on the mezzanine now. She leaned on the banister, staring down at the swirling colours of silk and satin blooming over the dancing floor.

“It’s not the idea itself that bothers me,” she regressed. “In fact, I think it’s a rather nice idea, to all come together and pass an evening over champagne.”

I looked over at her. A strand of her dark hair had fallen out of the bundle on the nape of her neck. Now it trailed down, curling slightly, past a white tea rose she had placed behind her ear.

“Then what keeps you up here with someone as anti-social as me?”

She tore her gaze from the dancers and looked me straight in the eyes. “You’re the first person I’ve met who’s honest with himself.”

Both she and I knew that it was terribly rude at a ball to spend all one’s time with just one person. But neither of us were too concerned with manners that night. It was all a show, anyways. I found myself regretful to leave, strangely enough. It wasn’t because of the other people, though. I had finally found someone who thought roughly the same way that I did, and now that I had made that connection, I almost didn’t want to go back to being a solitary creature in a study.

Perhaps my solitude had always been because I’d never found anyone who saw society the way I did.

The moment I had been looking forward to before hit me with an undertone of sorrow.

“Goodnight,” I bid her politely. “And a happy new year.”

“The same to you. They say two hundred books are published every day, so that means you should have read…” She calculated. “Seventy-three thousand by the time we cross paths again?”

“Let’s hope it’s fewer.”

She chuckled.

“Goodnight, Mister…”

“Edward Glasscock.”

“Mister Glasscock.” She pressed something into my hand as her father, who had chaperoned her, waited with her cloak.

I closed my fist around it, tipping my hat. “And goodnight, Miss -”

“Blair,” she called over her shoulder as they climbed into their cab. “Millicent Blair.”

The coach’s door closed as she pulled her white organza skirt out of its jaws. I didn’t realize it (or perhaps I didn’t care), but I stood there and watched it leave, the horses’ feet clopping on the cobblestones and echoing off into the night. Many others passed in front of me, between the double doors and away in other coaches. Finally, I looked into my hand.

On the scrap of paper torn from who-knows-where, she had written an address in very nice letters.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and jumped, shoving it into my breast pocket. Robin was standing behind me, the look on his face spelling triumph.

“What are you so joyous about?” I asked, turning to face him.

“Oh, nothing. I’ve just got this proud feeling inside me that my efforts paid off.”

He laughed. I sighed in annoyance, even defeat.

“Don’t expect it to happen again.”

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I realize this was really long, clocking in at almost 2500 words. So I apologize.

Trivia: Ned and Robin were the main characters of my 2017 Camp Nano novel Brother Robin. Next challenge will feature some more Nano characters – fun!

I only used one prompt. Can we please not use the ridiculous mistletoe one anymore? I kept on trying to think of ways to use it that weren’t repulsive to me, but I couldn’t think of any. And obviously, because of the Victorian setting, I didn’t use the pickup truck. Though I did like the photo.

I also mentioned my Team Name (I caught sight of Robin, now occupying a clearing in a forest of people.) 

So 1 point for participation + 1 point for the prompt + 1 point for mentioning my team name = 3 total points.

Sayonara for now – Go Team Forest!

{Tess}