Friday, November 6, 2009

6 November 2009

(End of Snow White and Rose Red. Eros and Psyche//East of the Sun, West of the Moon starts tomorrow! 8D)
Total Words Today: 1088
Total Words To Date: 10132

This pattern continued for some time, with Rosie living her life until Alexander came to visit her home. Sometimes they went walking and just talked, other times they stayed at the cottage and Alexander helped out with her chores. As a result, he was learning things he never thought that he would have to learn. He learned how to set a broken arm, to prepare treatments for everything from a stomach bug to a head cold, and all about the normal stages of pregnancy, and what could be expected.

More importantly though, Alexander learned about how the other part of society lived – the common folk. At first it had been awkward for him in his fancy suits and beautiful, well-tailored coats to interact with the people of the village, but after Rosie had presented him with some common laborer’s clothing, it had made everyone’s life easier. Although he had enough money that he didn’t need to worry about ruining a shirt or a pair of trousers, Alexander was not frivolous and not inclined to throw away his nice clothing for this work.

It had started off as an effort to get close to Rosie, who had distanced herself from him slightly and had never opened up quite as much as she did on the first day. Alexander’s presence in her life allowed him to see that although his first impression of her had been of an emotional, angry human being, Rosie lived her life almost as if she was playing a great joke on the rest of the world. It was being around her and her family that allowed him to first notice it. He couldn’t tell what it was about her that gave him that impression, but he rather thought that she knew what idea she projected with her easy smiles as people passed by her, either on the streets or even to the gentlemen who came to call on her sister.

Those easy smiles, he guessed, had been harder than Rosie wanted people to know. As he walked towards the cottage where Rosie and her family lived, he shoved a hand into his pocket and felt the small object therein. Today was the day. It had taken him all this time to work up to this, and he didn’t know long he would have yet. He planned on taking her back to the old ruins, even though the skies were overcast, and asking her his question there.

When he got to the cottage, the nerves began to set in. He and Rosie never really discussed what they were going to do. What if she had a patient that day and couldn’t escape from her house with him? What if he had to propose to her in the middle of her kitchen? He wasn’t too keen on the idea, since her thought her mother would prove a stumbling block. Rosie’s mother never seemed to approve of Alexander like she did of Charles. She did, however, approve of Alexander’s efforts during his time spent with Rosie. He believed that those hours spent lending her his time and his hands could not have been spent better, so in that they were in agreement.

When he had started working with Rosie, he had done it because he could not tear her away from her work for too long, but he could help her with it in an effort to make it easier for her. In reality, he had probably extended how much work she had to do by a very long shot by “helping” her, but by now it was too late to care. As the work had continued, though, he had found that he truly enjoyed it. He recalled his brother’s tale of Rosie’s healing of his foot, and seeing the scar that had been left over from Rosie’s rescue of Charles’s foot from possible infection, and probable death-by-hunter.

Alexander spent enough time at the cottage that Rosie and Snow White’s mother had told him he no longer needed to knock on the door. However, he had been raised well and felt the need to do what was the polite and proper thing, especially around Rosie’s mother, so as he reached the door of the cottage, he straightened his clothing and knocked on the door. It was opened by Rosie’s mother, Alexander’s nightmare. It was obvious that she didn’t like Alexander all that much. Although he was polite and never did anything to cause her insult, she possibly held some lingering resentment over his attitude towards her previously.

“Might I borrow your elder daughter for a little while on this fine afternoon, madam?” Alexander’s voice was polite, but in a rather detached way. Rosie’s mother nodded, and exchanged pleasantries with Alexander while she summoned her daughter. Rosie looked inordinately pleased to see him there, and grabbed her things for the outside. As the weather got colder, it became necessary to wear gloves, a hat, and a scarf as well as a cloak.

“When will you be back, Rosie?” Rosie replied that she didn’t know, and the two of them escaped out the kitchen door.

The walk to the ruins was quiet, and Rosie didn’t bother breaking the silence that fell between them. She didn’t complain when he took her hand, lacing his gloved fingers with hers. When they got to the ruins, Alexander looked at her and took her hands in his, standing by the fallen pillar where he had kissed her.

“Rosie… During this time of working with you… I approached you with the intention of helping you start smiling again, which it seemed like you’d stopped doing. I found though, that as time went on, I wanted to keep you smiling. Forever.” Rosie felt the world begin to fall away around her, as she watched Alexander’s face. “I don’t know why I love you, but I do. And I want to see you smile every day of our lives, and I want to be there to see you smile. I never thought I’d be here, asking someone to marry me, but I have to ask properly.” He pulled the ring that had been worn by many fingers of women throughout his family through history out of his pocket and knelt in front of her on one knee, saying, “Rosie, will you marry me?”

A small time later, the two of them walked back to the cottage, hand in hand, to inform Rosie’s mother of their relationship, and to set in motion the plans for a new life.

3-5 November 2009

(So, I'm a bum and didn't feel like actually catching up and continuing to write on a scheduled amount of necessary words per day. So I'm posting the 3rd through the 5th all in one day.)
Total Words, 3 Days: 1708
Total Words to Date: 9045

Rosie pushed a hand through her hair. She didn’t understand at all. Not only had he, a nobleman, just behaved so out of the bounds of propriety, he had done so, because he “wanted to”. Her whole life, she had been content living in the shadow of her sister and so she could not understand now why people would want to be with her. Her hands clasped in her lap, and she wrung her fingers together nervously.

“Rosie, look at me.” Alexander’s voice was soft, and altogether closer than she had first imagined he would be. She turned her face up, but her eyes remained fixed on the ground, the trees, anything but this man who was trying to talk to her.

“For God’s sake, Rosie, is it that awful? What could possibly make me this abhorrent to you? I’m sorry, I should not have done that,” he sounded frustrated, and raked a hand through his hair, pacing in front of her, “but I can’t apologize for everything.” He stopped pacing, sitting next to her. “I don’t know what came over me, Rosie. I’m truly sorry. I acted like a complete cad.”

Rosie’s eyes looked over at him now, meeting his face. She pulled her cloak tighter around her body and wished, for a moment, that she could disappear. “I’m sorry, no one has ever expressed any sort of… interest in me. It is not something to which I am accustomed, receiving attention and whatnot.”

It was Alexander’s turn to look away from her. He cringed and muttered something about his damn mind, and then looked back at Rosie. “I am terribly sorry. I had no idea that you’d never been kissed before. I was damn stupid.”

“Yes. You were. But I forgive you.” She looked up at the sky as she was wont to do when she was nervous, and grinned. “That cloud looks like an elephant.”

“An elephant? Nonsense! It’s obviously a rooster with a very long tongue.” All was better now. The way Rosie had changed the subject indicated that she wanted to forget he had ever kissed her – he understood completely.

“A long tongue? How could that possibly be a rooster with a long tongue? You’re crazy. It’s completely and beyond the faintest shadow of a doubt, an elephant.” Rosie rolled her eyes and looked at him like he was crazy.

“What the hell is this? I’m crazy? I’M crazy? Look at who’s talking, crazy girl!” He poked her in the side and she let out a yelp. “Ticklish? This is very useful to know.” Alexander’s fingers stroked his imaginary beard as she scooted away from him. He adopted a strange foreign accent next time he opened his mouth. “I shall have to use this in my quest to make your life a little less stressful… Hmm…” He suddenly lunged forward and tickled her on purpose. She shrieked and jumped away from him, laughing until tears ran down her cheeks and she had to pause to catch her breath

“Please-” Rosie gasped for air, slapping his hands away, “stop it.” Alexander sat back, looking rather pleased with himself.

“Doesn’t it feel better to laugh?” He grinned and stood, holding out his hand to her. “We should get going back to your home. Your mother will be wondering what has happened to us, and with all the wedding hubbub, I’d hate to get forced into one myself for spending too long out in the woods.” Rosie nodded, composing herself. She pulled her fingers through her hair to neaten it as much as she could given the tools she had. It didn’t help much, but it gave her something to do with her hands.

The walk home was rather tense and awkward, but Alexander had been right: it felt better to have laughed. She felt lighter than she had in some time, and she knew that letting out her stress and letting go and laughing had a large amount to do with it.

Alexander was doing his best to make small talk, to make the walk a little less awkward for her. It wasn’t working very well, but Rosie appreciated the effort. She walked slightly behind him, and rather than looking at her feet, Rosie spent her time watching her companion. He claimed to be a watcher of people – so was she. She watched him for different reasons than she usually watched people for. Where she normally watched people because the emotions they expressed interested her, she watched him because she enjoyed looking at him.

When they got back to the house, the sun had finished setting, and Rosie’s mother rushed outside to embrace her daughter. “Good heavens, Rosie, where have you been?” She quickly checked her daughter for injury, which Rosie appreciated but not as much as she probably should have. She didn’t appreciate that her mother assumed she would sustain some great injury in her adventure.

“I was out, mother. Alexander and I went on an adventure to some old ruins in the forest.” Her mother looked a little disapproving, which caused Rosie to clench her jaw in frustration for a moment. “Mother, I am fine. I am twenty-two years old, which is certainly old enough to go walking in the forest I have lived next to since I was a toddler.” Rosie watched her mother’s face go from disapproval to confusion. Rosie had never really spoken up before. Normally, she would have just apologized and gone back to working like she did.

“Ma’am, I promise, no impropriety was committed. Rosie is to be my sister-in-law. People think of us as brother and sister anyways. I see no problem with exploring a ruined structure in the woods with her.” Alexander’s voice had changed in tone slightly, causing Rosie to blink and stare at him in shock. He was pulling rank on her mother. His voice suddenly had some sort of aristocratic quality that it hadn’t had before, some sort of compulsion behind it. He made you want to listen to him, to do what he said. She took this with a grain of salt – he’d probably heard people speak like this to servants and common folk for his whole life, he probably had spoken to people like this for his whole life. Aristocrats. No matter how nicely they act or how fun they are to be around, they can’t change their stripes. Rosie rolled her eyes at him, and took off her cloak, hanging it on a hook on the wall by the door. She pushed her sleeves up to check the tea kettle, which was whistling for their attention.

The standoff between her mother and Alexander didn’t seem to be going anywhere until her mother looked down first. “Very well, I suppose you are correct. You should have informed me of your plans, Rosie; I worry.” Rosie nodded, although she had to restrain herself from rolling her eyes at her mother. Rosie’s mother hadn’t noticed her for weeks now, why should she now? As soon as the thought entered her head, Rosie was ashamed of it, and she chastised herself for her uncharitable thoughts towards her mother. Deep down, Rosie knew her mother loved her, but she also was frustrated with being ignored. Usually she could count on being at home for any attention that she needed, but today, it seemed that she wasn’t going to get it here.

Rosie thought that that was why she had enjoyed herself so much with Alexander. It wasn’t the right reason for liking to be with someone, but perhaps it was a start to a true friendship. Pathetic, really, that Rosie couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a true friend. When the tea that she had added to the water had finished steeping, Rosie poured it into the same cups they had used to serve cocoa to Charles when he had come to visit them. She handed one to her mother first, then to Alexander, jumping at the sparks that seemed to fly when their fingers brushed (Alexander must have done it on purpose, because it was by no means accidental).

Her eyes flew upwards to meet his, hazel meeting blue in a startled blend of confusion and pleasure. The pleasure came quickly because she guessed that he’d felt it too, judging from his reaction. Almost instantly, they both looked away from each other.

“Thank you, Rosie.” Rosie didn’t know if her mother had thanked her, but it pleased her that Alexander had dropped the formal “miss” in front of her name. She felt a little fluttering in her chest, and blinked, sipping her tea to hide her face. Her mother wouldn’t take long to figure out how she was starting to feel about Alexander, the fluttering in her chest when he talked to her, the nerves when they were together.

It didn’t help that he’d kissed her. Really. Rosie could have lived without having to imagine what would have happened if that kiss had been allowed to continue. At the direction her thoughts had turned, she flushed and returned her mind to the conversation at hand.

“… blue accents would be best, don’t you agree?” Rosie’s mother had managed to turn the conversation around to the wedding once more, and Rosie rather thought she ought to save Alexander from the topic of conversation, which he had seemed to dislike so strongly.

“Blue would suit Snow White’s feature’s perfectly. She will look enchanting. It would also mean that one more requirement is filled. ‘Something borrowed, something blue’?” Rosie’s mother looked pleased, and probably would have clapped her hands except that she was holding a cup of hot tea and the tea would have ended up everywhere, which wasn’t something that any of them would have liked.

Alexander looked grateful for the rescue. “I’ve finished my tea, and I thank you kindly for it. Perhaps Rosie might walk with me to the barn, so I might have a brief word with her while I saddle my horse?” He was being the aristocrat that Rosie wasn’t sure he wasn’t again, and both women nodded as Rosie set her cup down and pulled her cloak from the hook on the wall and walked out the door with Alexander.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2 November 2009

I made it through day 2 of NaNoWriMo '09!
Here she is!
Word Count for Day 2: 3582
Cumulative Word Count: 7337

Day 2:

The hullabaloo following this pronouncement, was great, to say the least. Snow White gasped and looked at her sister for some sort of help or reassurance. Rosie was absolutely appalled, and looked in her turn at her mother, but not before letting out a resounding and rather shrill, “What?”.

“Er, yes. This is rather sudden, isn’t it…?” The nobleman looked, quite frankly, a little sheepish as he shoved a hand through his hair and watched the people around him a little nervously. “I confess that, as I would imagine many are, I was first smitten by and interested in your daughter’s beauty, but this changed when she pleaded with her sister to help me, although perhaps my injury was well deserved.”

“Has it healed well, then, my lord?” The timorous voice came from Snow White, who was watching him intently.

“There is a scar, but in the transformation, the wound itself healed over beautifully. I owe Miss Rosie many thanks.” Charles folded his hands on the table, steepling his fingers around the mug of cocoa. He hadn’t drunk any yet.

“What I did, I did for love of my sister. You, sir, spoke of your brother – you will understand what it is to love one’s siblings.” Rosie hadn’t spoken much yet. She knew that her propensity for saying and doing very stupid things would probably get her into trouble, and she did not want to jeopardize her sister’s chances at a good marriage any more than she had with her fears of society. It seemed that, rather like Shakespeare’s Ferdinand and Miranda, Snow White and Viscount Mortland had fallen madly in love upon seeing one another.

Rosie wasn’t entirely certain she believed that that was possible, but her sister would believe in it, and if Snow White was happy, then Rosie would find her happiness, too.

“What does my daughter have to say about this?” Rosie’s mother’s voice broke through Rosie’s thoughts of Shakespeare, bringing her attention back t the matter at hand. Snow White appeared to be forming an answer, but taking her time of it, as though (for once) she was unsure of how to phrase what it was that she meant to say.

“I confess, I do not know Viscount Mortland. However, he seems to be a good man of upstanding character and fine disposition. I could not hope to marry better, from our current situation, Mama. In…” Snow White trailed off, putting a hand to her hair in a gesture that Rosie recognized as nerves. “Considering this, I will consent to be his wife.”

The smile that broke out across Charles’s face seemed to light up the room; certainly, it warmed Rosie’s heart about the situation. She was generally a very good judge of people, and Charles’s lopsided grin and open, honest expressions had endeared him to Rosie for the moment. She would, of course, wait before making her final judgment of him, but for now she approved.

“Mama,” the words jumped out of Rosie’s throat before she could think to stop them, “perhaps we should give Snow White and the Viscount a few moments to speak with one another.” She blushed dark red and put a hand to her mouth. “I don’t know where that came from, truly.”

To her surprise, Rosie’s mother stood up and looked at Snow White, then at the viscount. “We will be in the next room if you need anything, dear. Do come find us when his lordship is leaving. We will want to bid him farewell.” She then swept out of the room rather grandly, into the back room where she kept her supplies. Being the local hedge-witch, she often was called upon in cases of a birth, or sudden illness or injury. There was no local doctor in this tiny village, so the people relied solely on folk magic. In the long run, this was probably better for them. Big city doctors killed more people than they healed, it often seemed. They wouldn’t be likely to trust one in the village.

Rosie followed her mother, closing the door behind her. “Mama, do you think this is a good idea?” Her mother looked at her with sad eyes, then back at her herbs.

“It is always painful for a mother to give her daughter up in marriage, especially in a case so sudden as this one. But if it is what Snow White wants, I must allow her to leave us.” Rosie nodded, and moved across the room to hug her mother. “I do not believe that the young viscount will do wrongly by your sister.”

As she bent down and embraced her mother, Rosie closed her eyes and thought of herself. Too tall by far, and too heavy by half, she was far from the perfect beauty her sister was. Mentally, Rosie knew she was unable to control the words that came out of her mouth, a problem that was exacerbated by her razor wit. She straightened, and looked around the room, and out the window. “Mama, I believe I shall go out into the gardens for a short time. I wish to enjoy the stars.” Without grabbing her cloak, Rosie walked out the side door of the house, and managed to get through the gardens to a stump in an area away from the view of the house or of the forest, in the patch of wild gardens where no one was allowed to weed or prune, before the tears began to fall down her cheeks.

As she sat there on the old stump of wood, Rosie cried for things she hadn’t known she felt the need to cry over. She cried for losing her sister to a stranger. She cried for her own plain face compared to Snow White’s gorgeous one. She cried because she would never marry, because it seemed that she would live in her mother’s house for the rest of her life. She cried because she saw her life stretching out before her, and it was all the same, a very long, straight path. There was no light at the end of her tunnel – there was no tunnel. Rosie cried until she lost track of time, until she forgot why she had started crying in the first place. She cried about her weight, about her height, for every time she smiled and gave something up for Snow White, that Snow White never saw. She looked back at her life and cried for the times that she knew she should have cried at but never did. She looked at her future and cried for the wedding that was to come; she cried selfish, jealous tears. She cried because she saw herself spending more days and more time watching her sister succeed and get forward in life, while Rosie knew that in the end, she was going nowhere but back into the cottage, for the rest of her life.

And when she thought she was done, she cried hot, angry tears. Not anger with her sister or her mother, or Charles, Viscount Mortland; she cried out of anger with herself, with Rosie. For not working hard enough to be wanted like Snow White was. For being jealous of her sister’s happiness, for not finding her own happiness in Snow White’s happiness. She berated herself for her own pessimism, and then she stood up, brushed off her skirts, and looked at the stars like she had said she would.

They were beautiful. There was not a cloud in the sky, no smog from the cities to clog her skies. For a moment, Rosie stood alone in the garden, not breathing, just staring at the skies, and she was struck that, no matter where she went, whether she was here or hundreds of miles from the cottage she had grown up in, she would be able to look up and see the stars, and to know that her family could look up and see the same stars, and it would be like she was with her sister once more.

The decision wasn’t even one that required lots of time to make. She knew that whatever happened, she must never let Snow White know how upset she had been. Her sister was a better woman than Rosie could ever be, and she would not marry Charles if it made Rosie this unhappy. She calmed herself, and walked along the edge of the garden to the front of the house to see if Charles was still at the cottage. His carriage was still there, so Rosie made her way back through the gardens to the side of the house.

She looked up at the sky as she walked, since it was too dark for watching the ground to make any difference, and gasped when she saw a shooting star. She was, once more, struck by the beauty of the sky, and murmured a quiet “Thank you” to whomever had sent the shooting star.

With wedding plans underway, Rosie found herself becoming more and more useful to her mother. As Snow White and their mother grew busier with plans, it was left to Rosie to take over the day-to-day running of the house and taking care of the people who came seeking the services of the local wise woman. She made poultices and set a broken bone, went to the birthing of a baby, gave advice, cooked, cleaned, and generally made herself useful. It helped her to forget her sadness. Mostly.

Her mother made sure to still talk to her, keep her company as they worked (her mother worked on wedding things and Rosie did her work). The two women worked n companionable silence, usually. Rosie’s naturally meek nature made her eager to shy away from the attention of others but she didn’t want to be ignored entirely.

What Rosie wanted was to be noticed for some reason other than her clumsiness, or worse, to be noticed because she was next to Snow White. She was glad of the reprieve from being noticed only for her clumsiness, though. It gave her time to do things that she was good at, the little things.

“Rosie, there’s a man here to see you!” Snow White’s voice made Rosie look up from where her sister had stuck her head through the door. “It’s Charles’s brother. He wants to talk to you about something with the wedding, I think…” Her brows furrowed for a moment, but quickly smoothed and she smiled once more.

“Could you ask him to come talk to me in here?” Rosie knew that her request was pressing the bounds of propriety, but she knew that people would think of her and Alexander as brother and sister soon enough. She wasn’t worried, too much, but she’d never really spoken to her future brother-in-law except in passing. “I’m really rather busy, and if I stop now, I’ll lose the roll I’m on.”

Snow White nodded and closed the door, but she was replaced a few minutes later with Alexander Mortland, Charles’s brother.

“Future sister-in-law! Grab your cloak! This is a kidnapping!” Alexander was grinning as he threw the aforementioned garment at Rosie, who didn’t manage to catch it in time and was soundly whacked in the face with it. She muttered another word that Snow White never would have said, and stood, sliding her cloak on over her simple work dress, not bothering to argue that she really ought to be working on this.

“Good, put your boots on.” Alexander was trying to restrain his smile now, working to keep a straight face. It wasn’t really working. Rosie’s laughter, which she was trying to restrain now, too, bubbled up and over when she saw that he had made his fingers into the shape of a pistol. She laced her boots without question, and stood, looking at him.

“You will regret this! Where are you taking me?” Rosie held her hands above her head as she was marched out the back door and towards the forest.

“I can’t help but notice that you’ve been working constantly since the wedding furor started. I’m sick of it. If I have to hear another word about your sister or my brother, I swear I shall scream. You and I are going on an adventure.” Rosie blinked at her future brother-in-law and grinned, then put her arms down and began walking like she normally did – with her face pointed towards the ground.

“Where will this adventure be taking us, then?” She was shaking her head as she spoke. All of a sudden, she ran forward and spun in a circle, looking back at him with her smile really and truly there rather than faked or strained as usual. Her spinning and turning caused her to lose her balance though and she hit the grassy area soundly with her bum, and started laughing once more.

She lay on her back in the grass and laughed, staring up at the clouds in the blue sky. Alexander’s confused face entered her vision, interrupting her view, and his words made her laugh even harder.

“You, Rosie, are much crazier than they give you credit for. Come on, we’ll go find some ruins in the woods and then find shapes in the clouds and make fun of our besotted siblings and you can vent like I’m sure you’re dying to do.” He held out a hand, which Rosie took gratefully, and pulled her to her feet.

After a few minutes of walking between trees to find one of the paths, which would take them most of the way to the ruins, Alexander spoke once more. “So tell me about your feelings on the wedding. I’m dying to know.” Rosie couldn’t tell if Alexander was being sarcastic or not, but she rather doubted that he was. She lied anyways.

“I am truly happy for Snow White and Charles. They make a beautiful couple. I can only hope to love someone so ardently one day.” Alexander raised a brow, at her.

“Half truths are still lies, my dear.” He put a hand on the small of her back as they walked, and watched her expectantly for a better answer.

“I can only hope to love someone so ardently, but it is unlikely that he will notice me past the silly girl who walked into a wall or tripped over her own feet. The tall, fat girl with a beautiful sister.” Her voice was bitter, but she immediately blushed and covered her lips with her hand. “I didn’t mean to say that much.”

Alexander’s hand went to her shoulder, which he squeezed lightly to offer her what comfort he could. “It’s not a bad thing to feel that way. People have ignored you for years, I’ll wager. But your sister adores you. She sees so much in you – bravery, confidence, even if it’s a bluff – that she wishes she had all the time.” At her dry look, he continued, “I watch people, you see. I’m the ignored sibling. My brother was always the golden child, could do no wrong, so in the hubbub surrounding my parents’ death, people forgot about me, and I learned to watch people.”

Rosie’s eyes got wide as she watched him. “I confess, I had never guessed that it might be like that for you.” She pushed her hair back behind her ears. Because she hadn’t expected to be with company, she hadn’t bothered to put her hair up in a socially acceptable hairstyle, preferring to leave it loose around her back. She also did the unthinkable and wore her corsets looser than was socially acceptable, meaning that her blouses and dresses were inadvertently quite a bit tighter than was fashionable. What Rosie saw as fat, another person – like Alexander – might see as voluptuous, or curvaceous. Having lived her whole life in the shadow of her sister’s good looks, Rosie was unable to see how she might be attractive to someone.

“But I didn’t kidnap you to talk about me, Rosie.” Alexander was pretty sure they were coming up to the ruins, which would give them a chance to sit down where he could let her talk. In the years since he had started becoming more introverted, and more interested in watching people than interacting with them, he’d learned a thing or two about how to tell what people were feeling, and he could tell that over the past few days, Rosie had been screaming to be noticed for herself. He guessed that something had snapped inside of her about this wedding, and, sensing something of a kindred spirit in this rather strange girl, was determined to find out what it was. “Talk to me about the wedding, about your sister, about your life.”

Rosie found that as the words began to flow from her mouth, haltingly at first, she couldn’t stop them, and all the emotion she had cried out on the night her sister had become engaged returned to spew out in words. She didn’t even notice as the tears began to fall down her cheeks once more. When Alexander took her hands and sat her down on a fallen pillar, taking a seat beside her, she didn’t complain or stop talking. Apparently, Alexander’s evaluation of her had been spot on, and all she had needed was someone to talk to. Being forgotten for so long had made her forget how nice it was to have a friend she could talk to. She didn’t know why she trusted him but she did.

When she had finished speaking, Alexander put his arms around her and pulled her in to hug her. He ran his hands over her hair, smoothing it. Rosie wasn’t crying, but it was a close call. “Rosie, don’t let sitting in your sister’s shadow detract from your own beauty. You can’t be her. You’ll only ever truly see how beautiful you are when you can look at yourself and be you, not be your sister. In my eyes, you’re as beautiful as Snow White is, any day.”

Rosie looked up at him from where she’d buried her face in his shoulder, and with a sinking feeling of horror in her stomach, felt herself tumble headfirst and start falling in love with someone she would never be able to call her own. Her puffy, tear-stained eyes blinked a few times, before her lifelong pessimism and cynicism kicked in, and she moved away from him on their makeshift bench. “Don’t lie to save my feelings. You think I don’t know how I lo-”

“Rosie, do you know what I see when I look at you?” Alexander’s voice had lost a bit of its gentleness. He stood up and pulled her with him. She looked a little frightened at his sudden roughness, and became self-conscious of herself once more.

Slouch. It made her look fatter, but it made her feel shorter, which was good at her height. Alexander was still taller though.

“Stand up straight.” She did. “Rosie, when I look at you, do you know what I see?” She shook her head no, not looking at him. “I see a woman who has been ignored since her sister hit puberty and became more conventionally beautiful than her. I see a woman whose true goodness and sunny nature have been overlooked because society is too stupid to see it. I see a woman who can’t see the depth of her own attractiveness, and,” he reached up with one gloved hand to tilt her face up towards him. Her mouth opened slightly, and her eyes were wide as saucers. Alexander stepped forward, putting one hand on her waist, and looked her full in the face. “I see a woman who is beautiful. You are beautiful, Rosie. It’s what I first thought when I saw you.”

Rosie didn’t believe him, not really. Years of “training” were not so easily erased, and she was immediately put in the mind that he was truly a nice man who was lying to spare her feelings about the marriage of her sister to his brother. Given this, she could not have been more surprised than she was when he muttered an apology (although it might have been an apology to God, Rosie wasn’t sure) and pulled her towards him, meeting her lips with his, and moving his hand from her chin to the back of her neck. His other arm slid around her waist and her eyes, which had gotten wider in surprise, slid shut. As soon as the kiss had started though, Alexander stepped back, with a muttered curse, staring at her as though she might hit him, which she had every right to do. What he saw was a young woman who had just been kissed for the first time in her life, touching her lips with her fingertips and staring at him like she wasn’t sure whether to think him a villain or to worship the ground he walked on.

Rosie, for her part, was feeling just about that way. She knew that she should slap him and march home in righteous indignation. The truth of her feelings was not quite so clear-cut as that. She truly was unsure whether to embrace him or to hit him. In the end, she settled for turning away from him and sitting down on the fallen pillar, her eyes downcast. “You didn’t need to do that to prove your point.”

“You’re right. I didn’t. But I wanted to.”

1 November 2009

And so it begins. National Novel Writing Month.
Here you are, the first day of my novel writing experience, except that i'm really rewriting 5 fairy tales rather than 1 solid novel. Oh well.
Total Words for Day 1: 3755
Cumulative Words: 3755

DAY 1:

Thud. “Ow!” A feminine voice followed this first outburst with some very unfeminine words, and then quiet fell over the small cottage on the edge of the forest where the girl called Rose Red had just managed to walk into a closed wooden door. The door opened, allowing the now-sore young woman to step outside into the kitchen gardens and smooth her skirts.

The girl turned around when her name was called, swayed, and caught herself before she managed to make herself fall over so soon after her face became intimately acquainted with the door. “Rosie? Are you okay?” The voice that called to “Rosie” was infinitely lighter and more lady-like than Rosie’s apparently was, although the effect may have been exacerbated by Rosie’s swearing.

“Yes! I’m, er, fine, I think.” Rosie wasn’t entirely sure that she was fine, but she’d had her share of bumps and bruises in her life, and one more wouldn’t kill her. Turning away from the open door, she shifted her basket, and went to collect some things from the garden. For their smaller needs, the three women who lived alone in the cottage were able to harvest what they needed from their kitchen garden, and get only more important or large produce from the farmers in their village.

The garden that Rose Red was gathering vegetables from was quaint, which was the overall feel to the cottage and surrounding village, but Rose Red knew that she and her family were always going to be outsiders. They had bought the cottage from the old woman who had lived there before them, and kept her on as a boarder. When she had passed away, they had paid for her funeral rather than look for her children to do it. Because the family had only lived there for a short time, they weren’t accepted into the small country town immediately. This suited them just fine.

The cottage itself was also very quaint. It sat at the side of the forest with a stream running out of it, which went to watering the gardens, and for doing any household chores that didn’t involve actually ingesting the water. On that, Rosie’s mother was adamant: water coming out of a possibly enchanted forest was not for drinking, eating, or otherwise ingesting. The whitewashed walls were offset by wood trim and accents. There were flower boxes in the window, which held (if Rose remembered correctly) peonies.

Rosie’s mother never told her daughters much about her past, but she raised them as well as she could. All the girls knew was that their father had stayed with their mother as long as he was able before having to return to his home. He had left her mother when Rosie was a toddler, but now as she reached her majority, Rosie didn’t remember him at all. Apparently, Snow White looked like her father, while Rose Red obviously took after her mother.

Rose had her mother’s coloring and talent for the healing arts and being the local white witch who didn’t really have any magical talent of her own. Rose wasn’t certain that her mother had no true magical ability, but whether or not her mother was Gifted, Rose certainly wasn’t. She’d never seen any indication of it, and it would be nearly impossible to have gotten to her age without having seen something. She had pale skin like her sister did, but where Snow White’s was crystal clear, without a blemish or spot, Rose had freckles on her face, and down her arms and on her shoulders. Her hair was jet black, with a hint of wave, but not enough to be considered curly or straight. Being rather tall, she was able to hide the fact that she was probably heavier than she ought to be. Her cheekbones were hidden beneath the fat on her face, which lent to her a sort of home-like air. Rose had a sweetness about her that her plainness could not hide, and therein lay her true attractiveness. Her intelligence and sunny nature would make her a catch for any man who would look past Snow White to see her.

Unfortunately, no one did. Rose didn’t begrudge her sister the attention, though. She would rather not have large amounts of attention paid to her anyways. The only time people looked at her anyways was when she was doing in some sort of situation that would cause people great amounts of laughter at her expense, like walking into the door.

Snow White, on the other hand, was blonde, which suited her name perfectly. She supposed that she took after her father, although neither Snow White nor Rose Red had ever met him. Snow was stunning. Where her sister was tall and heavy, Snow was petite, with big blue eyes and a perfectly straight nose. She was the perfect lady, never tripping over her own feet, never walking into closed doors, and she would never swear like her sister did.

She did, however, seem to float out the back door to meet up with her sister and take the basket from her as the sun climbed through the morning sky. The girls went inside together and were immediately called by their mother.

“Girls, I find myself running low on some things. It would be wonderful if you two would go out into the forest to collect them, if I gave you a list of what I need.” Rose Red nodded, but looked a little hesitant. The forest made her nervous. Snow White nodded immediately. She wasn’t scared of the forest at all, partially because she was more practical than her sister and did not believe as strongly in enchantments.

“Of course we will, Mama. What do you need?” The older woman quickly wrote down a list of things that her daughters would need to collect for her, and handed it to Snow White, who was far less likely to lose it.

The forest was a little bit cold, and Rose Red looked assiduously at the ground to avoid finding any roots with her feet, which she was apt to do. The girls had covered their dresses with their cloaks, which matched their names. Rose’s was red, and Snow White’s was, rather unsurprisingly, white. The sisters talked of where it would be best to get the herbs required of them, of village gossip, of the weather, the gardens – everything. They spoke of Snow White’s wish to have lived in a city where she could have had a debut and come “out”, but how she would never have done it because then her sister would be expected to do something similar, and Snow White would never force her sister to do something which she would despise, even though Rosie would have made her curtsy to society for love of her “baby” sister.

Most of the plants were easily found, cut, and put into pouches in the basket being held on Rose Red’s arm. Snow White held the knife (being less likely to fall and stab herself) and the list, with a pencil to mark off the things that their mother had requested. Due to Rose’s rather clumsy nature, she kept a small medical kit at her waist. She did not trust herself not to need her sister to stitch a wound, or to put a tourniquet on her somewhere. It had proved useful on numerous occasions.

“Maybe we should look up on the hill? I’ve found feverfew there before.” Snow White’s voice broke through Rose’s thoughts, making her jump a little bit.

“Yes, I rather think that would be a good idea.” The sisters turned and started to walk towards the nearby hill. From the top of it, they could see much of the nearby area. Rose was never sure what she would see from here, and was always a little scared of what could be living in the pond off to the east a little bit. She knew consciously that there wouldn’t be something like a Rusalka, but one could never be too careful. The path at the top of the hill had once been well-worn, but no one used it anymore. The villagers didn’t come into the forest, for no one would dare to cut wood from the trees. There was a man who came through the woods and collected deadwood for fires. If a tree fell, he would get some men from the village to help him cut it up and drag it out of the woods, unless it was full of life.

The man who collected the firewood was respectful of the forest. Because of its reputation for being enchanted, the forest had not found its way into being cut down to feed the fires of industry which raged in other parts of the country. For now, this area remained as it had for hundreds of years, the only difference being the clothing worn by the villagers (but even that had not changed much – country folk were more unaffected by the changing fashions of the cities).

Rose Red stopped to look at some plants, thinking she saw some feverfew along the side of the path. It wasn’t, and as she was standing up, she looked at her sister and saw that Snow White’s brow was furrowed, her features twisted with concern. “Do you hear that noise? It sounds like some sort of moaning, an animal in pain…”

Rosie raised her head, listening carefully. “I do… Should we look for it?” She bit her lip. Snow White would have suggested it anyways. She knew that. Rosie was more timid about walking around in the possibly enchanted forest. She also knew that animals could be dangerous when they were hurt. There usually wasn’t anything more frightening than a fox, but a fox could do some serious damage to someone with Rosie’s propensity for getting hurt.

“Could we, dearest? Please?” Snow White’s face was pinched with worry for the animal, whatever it was. Rosie nodded her assent, and began to walk towards where the noise was coming from. Snow White linked her arm with her sister’s as they followed the sound of the whimpering animal.

When Rosie had to go into the forest, she never went this far in, or in this direction. She never had to. It always struck her as darker than the other, for some reason. It seemed to Rosie to be discouraging people from coming over here. She didn’t doubt that her sister had done some looking around though.

At her sister’s gasp, Rosie looked up to see the source of the pained noise. Her face drained of blood, and she sucked in air through her teeth, fear causing her heart to pound. In front of the girls was a creature they never would have willingly gone this close to, especially not one with a gash like the one in front of them had.

It was a bear.

“Rosie, we have to help it.” Snow White’s voice was final. The bear’s head perked up at their voices. It looked at them pitifully, its eyes sad and pained.

“What?!” Rosie looked at her sister like she’d grown three heads.

“You’re better at sewing… Please, Rosie?” Snow White, who had sheathed her knife in the belt at her waist, grabbed her sister’s hands, eyes wide and pleading. “It’s in pain, and we have the supplies to save it. What if the wound becomes infected, Rosie? It will die!” Tears welled up in Snow White’s eyes, and, as usual, Rosie found herself unable to ignore her or deny her what she wanted.

“Fine. Give me the knife.” She pulled from her cloak the small satchel that had her emergency supplies in it, and took the knife from her sister. Warily, she moved towards the bear, her hazel eyes wide. When she knelt by the wounded animal, she reached towards it with trembling hands, and slowly pushed its fur out of the way. The bear, rather uncharacteristically of a wounded animal, didn’t attack her for causing it even more pain, but made a sort of moaning noise.

Rosie looked up at the animal she was tending to, and took a deep breath, her jaw clenching. Her normally pale skin was white as death with fear, and her breath seemed to tremble as much as her fingers did. She met the bear’s eyes, and for some reason, she felt that if she were to speak, it would understand her.

“This will hurt like… well, it will hurt a lot. If you move, it will hurt distinctly more. So hold as still as possible.” Rosie’s courage was all a bluff. There was no way she was that confident around a wounded bear, but one of the things her mother had taught them was that animals will respond to the appearance of confidence. If you look and act confident, then the animal will bow to your authority – supposedly.

She opened the satchel of emergency supplies and pulled out a needle, threaded it, and looked at the bear warily, then set the needle down on the pouch it was stored in. Biting her lip, she pulled out a small vial of liquid, and pulled the cork out gingerly. “Snow White, would you make sure that the needle is clean, while I clean the wound?” Her voice cracked on “would”, but she turned back to the bear anyways.

Where there had been pallor before, her cracking voice made Rosie’s face flush with embarrassment. She carefully poured a bit of the liquid from the vial on a cloth from the satchel, and corked the vial once more. While holding the cloth in her left hand, she used her knees and her right hand to unscrew the top on a metal flask full of water, which she then proceeded to pour on to the cloth. With her now wet cloth, she cleaned up some of the drying blood around the wound, but jumped backwards and grabbed for the knife when the bear roared and reared up.

Snow White had grabbed the knife first and was now standing between her sister and the bear. “Don’t you dare.” For someone so demure and ladylike, Snow White was remarkably defensive of her sister. The bear whimpered again and bowed its head.

“Don’t do that, Snow White. You’ll get hurt.” Rosie knelt once more by the bear, and took the needle her sister had cleaned, clenching her jaw. She pulled the fur away to expose the wound once more, and then began to sew. The bear made noises of pain, but didn’t move again, watching Snow White and her knife (although it was unlikely she’d stab him unless provoked) warily.

After several very tense moments, the sewing was done, and Rose Red wet the cloth again, to wipe down the wound one last time. She packed up her things, and stood up, moving backwards slowly. Snow White followed her, looking at the bear sadly. The bear stood up, testing out its foot gingerly. The wound had been caused by a hunter’s trap, and the stitching had helped it to keep from moving against itself.

Rose Red turned away, and finally noticed the feverfew that they had missed. She went to cut it and add it to the basket, as Snow White watched the bear as it seemed to bow to them and lumbered off slowly.

“Be safe, bear! Don’t hurt yourself more!” Snow White’s voice broke through the silence of the woods and Rosie whipped her head around to watch it move away from them. She stood up with the feverfew in its packet, and walked towards her sister, linking arms with her once more.

“Shall we go home again, dear?” Snow White’s voice was soft, and she placed a gentle hand on her sister’s arm. “Thank you for helping the bear. I could not have done it, and you are a much better nurse than I.” The younger sister smiled up at the elder as they began to walk.

Rosie’s heart was pounding, but the adrenaline was wearing off, and she was starting to feel tired. She was still shaky, but that, too, would wear off soon, and she’d be able to calm down and do some simple, calming task for her mother. She would probably have nightmares about the bear rearing up at them and roaring, about the bear attacking Snow White, about the bear attacking Rosie.

“Good Lord, Rosie, you look as if you’ve seen a ghost!” Rosie’s mother stood up from her desk and swept across the room to put her hands on her child’s face. “What has happened to you?” Rosie allowed herself to be moved and sat in a chair. She looked at her mother blankly, and then into the cup of blackberry cordial that Snow White shoved into her hands.

“Rosie saved a bear while we were in the woods. It was wounded, and it was crying, and Rosie saved it by sewing up the wound on its foot.” Snow White ran her hands over her sister’s hair, pulling out the pins holding it up. With a pat to Rosie’s shoulder, Snow White went to the room that they shared and got her brush, then went back. It was a ritual in the small cottage, that when something was wrong with one sister, the other would brush and restyle the first sister’s hair, which was what Snow White was doing now for Rosie.

She hadn’t done something like this in a while, and as Snow White’s fingers ran deftly though and over Rosie’s hair, Rosie told her mother in shocked, frightened, halting sentences the story of what had happened. When the telling was done Snow White shook her head and looked at her mother.

“The bear acted most curiously, Mama. I don’t understand. If it had acted like a normal bear, I never would have asked Rosie to help it.” Snow White knew her mother was a bit upset with her for asking Rosie to help the bear, but her mother shrugged.

“I don’t know, dear. The forest is strange, I tell you this on a regular basis.” She made a face that generally denoted that she was thinking very hard about something. “It is possible that the bear was an enchanted human and would have human characteristics, but even so, it acted very strangely.”

“I spoke to it.” Rosie spoke up suddenly. “It was like it understood me.” Snow White nodded.

“It is true. After Rosie snapped at it, the bear behaved much better.” She shrugged lightly, before adding, “I only hope it heals well and can stay away from hunters long enough to get better!” And that was that.

The subject made no reappearance for three days, until the three women were sitting at the kitchen table once more with mugs of cocoa all around, discussing the upcoming harvest season.

“The weather is supposed to get stormy soon. I hope there’s enough time before the winter storms set in to get the harvest in.” Snow White stirred her cocoa idly, and blinked as a knock sounded on the door.
Rosie stood before Snow White could, and went to the door to open it. The man who stood there was dressed in finery beyond the means of any of the women at the table. He was obviously a nobleman of some sort, and Rosie managed an awkward curtsy. Seeing Rosie do this, Snow White and her mother stood up and joined Rosie at the door.

“Rosie! Invite him in!” The hissed command from her mother made Rosie jump slightly from her observation from the nobleman on her doorstep.

“Oh, er, right. I forgot. Won’t you please come inside, my lord?” Rosie stepped away from the door and let the man inside. He stepped inside and closed the door to make sure the heat didn’t escape.

Feeling a little awkward, Rosie went to the cabinet and got out another mug. “Would you care for some cocoa, sir?” The man looked up at her from his observation of the room.

“That would be lovely, Miss…?”

“Rosie, sir. Rose Red.” Rosie poured him the last of the cocoa from the pot on the wood stove. The village hadn’t gotten gas yet, let alone electricity, and that suited the women just fine. Holding her skirts out of the way, she went and handed it to the man. “Please, have a seat.”

The man sat, as did Rosie and Snow White, and their mother, who spoke next, trying to break the silence. “How may we help you this evening, sir? I take it that this is not an emergency for which you will need my help?”

“Pardon my rudeness, madam, I have not yet introduced myself. I am called Charles, and I am more formally known as Viscount Mortland.” He did not stand and bow, merely bowed his head to Rosie’s mother across the table.

“And how may we help you this fine evening, milord?” As her mother spoke, Rosie took the time to look at the man who had shown up on their steps. His hair was nearly as dark as her own, and it was fashionably disheveled. Unlike the women he was sitting with, his skin was tanned, but in a way that said that his skin was naturally dark, not suntanned. He was handsome, too, no doubt about that, and he was looking at Snow White.

“A few days ago, your daughters found a wounded bear in the woods, and Miss Rosie stitched up his leg, at the urging of her sister. Miss Snow White’s concern, it turns out, was enough to save the bear from an eternity as such, and he was returned to his natural form. Me. My brother and I were cursed to life as bears after angering a magician.” Snow White was watching Charles as he spoke, her eyes wide as saucers.

“I… It was certainly Rosie who saved you!” Her hands were clasped in her lap, and she gestured to her sister. “I did nothing!”

“On the contrary, without your intervention, Miss Rosie would have run, as well she should have. A wounded bear is dangerous.” Charles bowed his head. “I come with a difficult and possibly strange request.”

Rosie’s mother looked at him a little strangely, as if she knew what he was going to say, but she was determined to make him say it out loud. “What can we possibly do for you, milord?”

“I would like to have Snow White’s hand in marriage.”