Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rule of Three - The Finalist Compilation


Guys! Guess what (if the title of this post hasn't already given it away)? My Lady in Wanting story that I've posted all last month for The Rule of Three has made it to the "Long List" of finalists! Not only is this a real surprise from left field, but a true honor. Thank you, judges, for allowing it to come this far!

As a finalist, I've been asked to repost the story in its entirety to allow voters easy access to the whole thing. Good idea. And here it is! I hope you enjoy the read.


  Lady in Wanting - Part 1

Prompt:

- Someone might fall in love.


Lyra grazed the soft white fabric with her fingertips. Pure as silk, smoother then satin. Of all the materials presented thus far, this felt the most fitting. Nothing compared, in all of Renaissance.

Melinda’s wedding gown would be perfect.

“I approve,” Lyra said. “How does it fair for you?”

Melinda copied Lyra’s approach with a nervous hand. Such a beautiful hand. Not a single blemish squandered her skin. Her green eyes gleamed of mixed excitement and caution within a round face. Even her hair matched the fabric well. Her fair complexion had taken root in her hair, making each strand look almost white. She felt the material, nodded, and abruptly excused herself.

Something troubled her. That much was obvious.

“Is something wrong with her?”

Lyra turned to the tailor—or rather Giles, his apprentice. The muscles of his mandible tensed slightly, as if his teeth clenched. Not with anger, but concern. The ends of his yellow hair did not extend long enough to hide this minute detail. Lyra found it rather appealing. “I’ve wondered that myself. She’s hard to keep up with, since she got engaged to Philliam. Now I’m dragging her about!”

“You don’t sound happy for her.”

“She may be the richest girl in town,” Lyra explained, “but she’s my best friend.”

Giles folded the fabric into a square and tucked it under his arm. “She’s lucky, then.”

Lucky? Something about the way he said that made her wonder. Did he just make a subtle pass at me? Even if he did not mean it that way, she did not mind the contemplation. Not one bit.

“I best give this to my master,” said Giles, “so he can start.”

“Would you mind walking me out?”

“Uh,” he stammered. “Sure.”

Lyra slowly seized his extended elbow as soon as he left the counter. Such a gentleman. His shop was much like the others in the small district, differed only by shelves of fabric, sewing tools, and other wears. Lyra never felt his arm before. The long sleeve shirt beneath his tunic did a marvelous job of hiding his firm bicep. He was a mystery. She expected nothing less of a blacksmith or one of the many miners from Heriot’s Pass, but from a tailor in training?

Curious indeed.

“Where do you find your materials?” Lyra asked. “They’re exquisite!”

“Imported, mostly,” Giles answered, “but we find worms in the Assart forest.”

Lyra summoned a quiet laugh. “To think my dress came from the bellies of those creatures.”

“I remember it.” Giles glanced at her. “The seams were devilishly hard to keep from puckering.”

Pausing, Lyra glanced into his light-blue eyes. “You made my dress?”

He gazed back with a nervous smile. “And others . . .”

Though she had a thousand responses, Lyra let her surfacing blush speak for her.

“I, umm,” Giles stammered again. “I’d better go . . .”

“You’ll be at the mask, tomorrow night?”

“For Philliam’s return?” He looked more nervous than ever. “I have no invitation.”

I’m inviting you.”

“You think it wise?”

“To be my escort? I think it very wise.”

Giles nodded. “Then I will come. Good morning.”

He bowed and parted. Lyra watched him move behind the counter to the back of the shop. She could not believe her forwardness. For a moment, she did not care. She knew Giles for a long time, ever since the establishment of Renaissance. Her heart and mind finally agreed.

She truly longed for him.

His hands caressed her satin dress once. If only the fabric on her body were his hands now.

Saving the thought, Lyra turned to look for Melinda.

 *    *    *


Lady in Wanting - Part 2

Prompts:

- A relationship becomes complicated.
- A character lies to another on an important manner.


Melinda watched her door close.

The solid oak thudded as the brass handle latched, leaving her alone inside the room she’d known all her life. Matching dressers, a wardrobe, and a vanity d├ęcored the warm, earthy walls that often made her feel like a maiden lost in the woods. A few of her old, favorite toys and a small playhouse loitered the corners below a collection of dolls. They stared at her, their glass eyes clear and dry. They would not weep for her taken innocence.

All the money in the world could not remove the anguish that stirred her soul. But all her coin was enough to keep the doctor silent.

Melinda took a breath, resisting the sick that dominated her stomach. She looked out the window. The doctor crossed the street, followed by the tailor’s apprentice.

What’s he doing here?

Stepping back, Melinda sat on the edge of her bed. She did not know what to do, feeling trapped and alone. Nothing in her pampered life could prepare her for the harsh reality that she faced. How could she face anyone now? Her parents. Her betrothed. With an utterance, even her best friend would be lost.

A rapping beyond the door disturbed her internal war.

“Melinda?”

Lyra!

Melinda tried to answer, but she swallowed instead.

“I saw the doctor,” her friend carried on. Always the strong-headed one, something Melinda wished she had more constitution of. “Might I come in, or will I catch whatever you caught?”

Dashing for her covers, Melinda made ready to feign the fever that she convinced the doctor to tell whoever inquired of her condition. She reached for the bowl of water on her nightstand, dabbed her fingers in the pool, and rubbed droplets on her face, completing the effect. “Come in.”

Lyra entered, looking lovely as ever. Her long dark hair draped behind her shoulders, her eyes framing amber irises. The normal confidence that defined her was missing. “You look dreadful.”

Melinda laughed, masking a cry. “And you flustered. I’m sorry for leaving you.”

“A short explanation would’ve kept me from upturning the town for you, but all is forgiven.” Lyra strode to the bed and sat by Melinda’s side. “I didn’t mind. Giles walked me here. He seemed just as concerned about your leaving as I was. I invited him to the mask.” Lyra pressed her palm on Melinda’s head. “Strange,” she said. “You look pale, and feverish, but you don’t feel it.”

A sob surfaced in Melinda’s throat. Her silent tears joined the water on her cheeks.

“This can’t be good,” Lyra asserted. “Are you putting this on?”

“I must,” Melinda choked. “I do not know what to do.”

“If not a fever, what has made you ill?”

Finding the words impossible, Melinda raised her head and looked down. Her hand followed and stopped over her middle.

Lyra shot up like a lamppost. “Are you sure?”

Melinda closed her eyes. More tears streamed into her pillow. Only Lyra knew the truth now. Relinquishing her secret brought about an overwhelming feeling of mixed relief and regret.

“Philliam?”

“I’m not sure . . .”

Lyra knelt beside the bed. “There is another?”

“I was to see him tonight,” Melinda said, “but I dare not now.”

“What will you do?” Lyra asked, her voice impressively calm.

Melinda reached, desperately, for Lyra’s hand. “Go in my place? Tell him it’s over?”

Lyra did not answer, her face writhen with torn patience. “No one else knows?”

Melinda shook her head.

“I thought I knew you better, but for you, I will ... if you tell me who the father is ...”

 *    *    *

Lady in Wanting - Part 3

Prompts:

- Betrayal is in the air.
 - Relationships unravel or strengthen.
 - A long-kept secret is revealed.


A cool wind jostled the dust from reddened leaves overhead. Not many remained on their branches, thin as they were. The Culdees forest used to be lush and full, long before the humble establishment of Renaissance. This was the story that Giles often heard. Weary miners, having nothing better to do than sit in his father’s pub, told many tall tales of their years when the town was a clearing. Some claimed they saw creatures that bewitched the eyes of late travelers. Giles saw nothing like that—just shadows, cast by a sliver of moonlight.

His smile frowned, reminded of his purpose for coming.

*    *    *

Despite the warning of Heriot’s Pass, the miners decided to dig there. It would not be long before everyone knew of its collapse. The news reached Giles that afternoon, just as he was about to start working on that wedding dress for Lyra's rich friend. All but one managed to flee the scene unscathed.

His elder brother.

Giles dropped everything to search for the physician, careful not to look grieved. No one needed to know that their three hundred and thirty-three population was about to change to three hundred and thirty-two, before the mask. To his surprise, Lyra bumped into him, still looking for her friend. They searched and soon found the doctor, counting coins, as he left Melinda’s house.

“Thought so,” Lyra told him. “See you later.”

Giles watched the door close behind her before he chased down the physician and brought him to his brother. Given all his skill and learning, the man could do nothing.

With his final breaths, Giles’ brother shed a tear. He spoke of a girl that he loved, a girl that Giles knew nothing about. They had planned to elope that night, deep into the southern forest.

“Who?”

Death reaped before he could say.

Giles closed his eyes and wondered. His brother always had a girl in arm. Which one?

Anyone else would have stayed and mourned, but whoever this girl was, she deserved to know.

*    *    *

Just ahead stood a thin figure, cloaked and still.

The closer Giles neared, the more she turned. He wore a cloak, too, so they stared at each other, their faces shrouded by the night.

Neither of them spoke, but Giles tried anyway.

“Hello,” she beat him to it. “Thornwall?” 

That was his last name, and he knew her voice.

It can't be!

Giles stopped as her face defined. “Lyra?”

She gasped, equally disbelieved. “Giles!"

As much as he loved his brother, Giles wanted to turn back and punch his dead face. Giles loved Lyra. His brother knew that, as far back as they could remember. And he wooed her, behind his back.

Tears lined Lyra's lips. “How could you?”

What did she mean? "How could I what?"

“Don’t talk to me,” she cried. “Ever!”

Giles reached for her arm. Her fist found his nose.

“Melinda is engaged, and then you flirt with me after giving her child? Just when I—

She took off toward the town in a hard run, leaving Giles with a whirling string of questions. Melinda was with child? His brother’s child? Was Lyra the one he meant to meet tonight, or was it Melinda? Either way, a grave misunderstanding had just occurred.

He wasn’t about to lose Lyra over it.

Giles followed, but she vanished long before he reached town. A light shined in Melinda’s window, giving him an idea. He found a few small rocks and threw them at her pane.

She opened it, looking surprised. “What do you want?”

“We need to talk,” Giles insisted. "Right now."

*    *    *


Lady in Wanting - Part 4

Prompts:

- There is a new arrival in town.
- Relationships mend/are torn asunder
- The final event becomes another secret for generations to come.


Every creature under the heavens gathered to the town square, just as the distant sun set behind the Roundeli Mountains. Some were birds. Others beasts. Bright lanterns illuminated the party, floating like kites on thin strings. None would leave hungry or go unquenched, nor would their eyes forget the unyielding colors. The Mask brought the whole of Renaissance together, one night of every year, with the promise of having their faces kept secret until midnight.

Philliam had not arrived. Neither had Melinda.

Standing near a bowl of cider, Lyra tugged at her mask and let it rest on her forehead. She had no intention of coming. After last night, nothing in her life was as she assumed, her ignorant bliss shattered by her betrayed infatuation. The music played. Lyra stood still. Giving her heart was a mistake. She would never give it again.

A palm caught her attention. “Next dance?”

The request came from a hooded sparrow. A brown mask covered all but his mouth. Lyra’s heart did not want to, but her mind desired a distraction. The tempo rose. Their waltz joined the others. He looked at her as she stared at his chest, wondering which boy he was.

“You’re easy to find,” he said, “with your mask off.”

“I’ve lost the joy of pretending.”

He moved closer, his hand pressing her back. “You’re not a very convincing nightingale.”

Lyra scoffed. “If only I were. Then I could fly.”

The sparrow paused. They stood still as the others carried on. “From what would you fly?”

“A predator,” she said, “unsatisfied with one prey.”

“If this predator pounced, would you flee?”

He removed his mask before she could answer. Lyra shuttered. Her skin ached where Giles held her body. His hands had touched every inch of her dress, too—his firm, experienced hands.

“Hear me out,” he said quickly. “I felt the same as you did, last night.”

Catching her breath, Lyra looked to see if anyone noticed. “The same?”

“I’ll show you.”

Holding back her prejudice and vexation, Lyra let him guide her from the party. They soon entered the pub. She heard sobbing behind the bar. Melinda’s sobbing.

A still figure occupied a table in the back room, draped with a thin sheet. Melinda sat by it, her face caressing a pale hand. Lyra did not understand. She looked at Giles for an explanation.

“The father,” he said. “My brother ...”

A wave of guilt and relief swept over Lyra’s heart, followed by sorrow for Melinda. She rushed to her friend with a careful embrace. Melinda received her, weeping softly into Lyra’s chest.

“I’m so sorry—”

“Someone back there?”

They all jumped. Philliam entered the room. Melinda stopped. Giles looked nervous. Lyra feared the worst.

“What’s this?”

“My brother,” Giles uttered. “Heriot’s Pass … collapsed on him.”

Philliam nodded, his eyes thin. “Sorry for your loss. I’ll wait outside, Melinda.”

After he left, everyone exhaled.

Melinda stood and wiped her eyes. “If he ever knew—”

Lyra took her hand. “It will be our secret. The three of us. Forever.”

Another tear welled in Melinda’s eye. She held Lyra tight. “I will never betray you again.”

They parted and Melinda left. Giles and Lyra followed, watching the couple as they entered the Mask.

Lyra breathed. “Can I live with this secret?”

“You do not carry the burden of another man’s child.”

“But I will be there, for her.”

“And I,” said Giles, “for you.”

Answering his invitation, Lyra reached for his neck and pulled herself to his lips. His hands found her back again—his wonderful, inexperienced hands. For now.

The End


I'm David, and this is my longest post ever!


21 comments:

  1. Congratulations! :) You definitely deserve it.

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  2. congratulations! well deserved!

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  3. Yay, David!! Congrats to you. :)

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  4. Congratulations, David. It reads even better when put together, Roland

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  5. I mean, David. I guess being blogging friends doesn't really give me the right to call you Dave...though when I see you in real life don't be surprised if I call you Dave...and hug you. I hug people.

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  6. Congratulations on the news David :-)

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  7. David - that is awesome and not at all surprising, if you ask me. :) Congrats!

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  8. Wow, holy cow! You pretty much rock.

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  9. Yeah...you rock sir. I bow to your expertise and skill and salute you.

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  10. Now that's what I'm talk'n 'bout! I'm not surprised. Congrats to you!

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  11. Congrats on making the longlist! I loved this story! Great job. =) Will you be participating in Part II in May?

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  12. Wow. You came up with a good story following those prompts. Maybe prompts are the way to go. :-) I'm sure you're writing had more to do with it than anything else – very good. Congratulations on making it into the finalists. That's quite an accomplishment.
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

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