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Hi everyone, I'm new to this board (and Just Mommies too) and I found this board while browsing. I've been wanting to get a book published since I was very small, and have been working towards that goal for years. This is the prologue to my current endeavor. Please tell me what you think, and don't hold back. I'm up for criticism, how else am I going to improve? Thank you guys in advance!
England, Caldwell Manor 1824 </div>
The rough scraping of sandpaper against wood was the only disturbance in the otherwise silent room. It disappeared as quickly as it had come, and one would have been left to wonder if it had truly been heard in the first place. A short moment later it was heard again, this time followed by an aggravated sigh. The third time produced not only the scratching noise, but a tiny burst of flame to accompany it; a flame which was the sole source of light.
The flame flickered wildly for a few moments before settling into the lull of a steady fire, casting light upon the pale face of a blossoming young girl. She cupped her hand around the light to prevent it from being blown out as she moved across the room towards a candle, carefully bringing the cumbersome match downwards to set the wick aflame, and blowing the original fire out of existence. She set the long match upon her bedside table and picked up the candle by it’s ornately wrought iron holder. She slowly walked the perimeter of the room, her gaze scanning everything in sight as if she had never seen it before. But she had seen it before, every day for as long as she could remember, and for much longer than she would have liked. The room had become her prison, and she was nothing more than a prisoner in her own household.
As the light was cast upon a portrait of the family, she stopped to study the faces. She looked upon her father first, he had a kind face and a gentle heart. She had loved him dearly for the first several years of her life, and she could think of no one who had given her as much joy in life as he had. She had learned to ride her first horse by his teaching, and many a card game had been shared by the two before bedtime. But that had been before his hunting accident.
She quickly shifted her gaze from her father, the thought of him too painful for her to dwell upon. Her mother’s face was now in view, and she couldn’t help the anger that began to well inside of her. Even now, music was floating back up to her from the floor below, teasing her cruelly about the fact that she had been thrown to the side by her own mother. In the portrait, her mother’s hand was placed seemingly lovingly upon her own, and the sight only pushed her anger farther, bordering on hatred. Her mother had been very kind to her when her father was around, her parents had only been able to have one child, and she had heard her mother on several occasions apologize for not having given birth to a boy. Her father had always pushed the apologies aside, ordering her to stop speaking of it, that he loved Megan very dearly and would never take a boy over her. When she was younger, Megan hadn’t realized exactly what it had meant, but she knew that it meant her mother hadn’t wanted her.
It was not until after her father died that her mother’s true nature had come out, and Megan had been forced into the shadows, no longer having any of the liberties that she had taken for granted as a young girl. She averted her gaze from the portrait and hurried over to her bed, where a cloak was laid out and waiting for her. The candle was put down upon the bedside table once more, and the cloak was slung about her shoulders and clasped around her neck as she headed out of her room, and towards freedom. The candle was left, forgotten, on the table.
Lightening illuminated the stairwell and the room below only for a brief moment before making its exit and plunging them into an abysmal darkness. The candles had long since been extinguished in the main hall; the only light came from the outside through a single window and reflected off Megan’s satin gown. She stood at the top of the stair with her head held unnaturally high and proud. Her heart thundered in her chest, and she feared that someone would hear. Music then slowly began to make its way to her ears, reminding her that no matter how loudly it beat, no one would come. She took a ragged breath as she straightened her back and placed her hand upon the alternating white and grays of the marble banister.
She slid one delicately slippered foot off of the top landing, and placed it firmly upon the first marble stair. She had traversed these stairs a thousand times, and she wondered why it seemed so difficult this time. She heard indistinct voices, not ones at her Mother’s party, but from the kitchens…growing louder. She crouched down in the stairs, using the darkness to her advantage, clinging to the marble rails as if her life depended on it, her eyes squeezed shut. Soon, the voices passed just as they always had; no one had taken notice to her while she grew into a young woman, she wondered why anyone would take notice of her now. Her gaze shifted back to her bedroom door and then again down the stairs, towards her path to freedom, before slowly drifting back towards the room that had been her safe haven for as long as she could remember. Many a night she had cried herself to sleep in that room after she had been berated for some small oversight on her part, or an imagined incident that hadn’t truly happened quite the way it had appeared. One night in particular came back to her, and the visions flooded her mind; causing her to loose sight of everything except the memory, as if it were happening to her once more.
“But Mama,” she cried up to her Mother, tears flooding down her face as she attempted to wrench her arm free of the older woman’s. “He was pulling my hair! He deserved it!”
“He did no such thing, he was sitting at the table, as all well behaved children do, and you began a fight with him – stop pulling Megan!” The woman’s voice was cold and very angry; her grip on the young girl’s arm violent enough to leave a mark. “You had no cause to have hit him, Megan, you should be ashamed of yourself. How am I ever going to get you married off and out of the house if you keep behaving so deplorably?”
The young girl’s heart wrenching sobs were the only answer in the otherwise silent house. Megan, at only ten years of age, knew that there was no arguing with her mother. A violent tug on her arm sent her running for a few steps, and only served to renew the tears that had just begun to subside.
“Are you listening to me? I can’t bring you anywhere, can I?”
The threat had been adhered to; in the three years since the incident, Megan had not been able to attend any function, even one in her own home. The memory faded slowly, leaving her on the stairs, her mind still torn. She could easily give up now; turn around and go back to her room, it would be much easier. Her gaze fluttered back down the stairs and she slowly pushed up from the floor as she straightened her spine. She would not, she could not, give up now. Her head turned as she gave one last look to the door that led to a prison of her parents making and she gained the confidence that she had lost momentarily. She returned her gaze to the doors- her one and only true objective.
She stepped down to the second stair which brought the bottom of her skirts into view and she knew that she could no longer turn back. She closed her eyes, holding her breath once more, and reminded herself why she first made this decision. She would not be pushed to the side any longer; she had a proper English title, which she had lived up to, despite what her mother believed. She would prove it to them, no matter what. A crack of thunder caused a gasp from the girl that she thought someone must have heard. She waited for someone to come at her, chastising her for her mere existence. Again, nothing.
Lightening filled the room once again as she skipped three more stairs and her path showed itself clearly in the night. The heavy oaken doors once held her captive, but now offered her freedom. She scanned the room below, seeing the familiar closet door to the left of The Doors, and a small table for gloves and flowered between them. The marble stairs melted into a large marble floor, now coated in mud from the hundreds of guests who had passed over it this night. Her eyes widened as she saw the floors, and she quickly looked down the hall, expecting to see someone hurrying to remedy the problem; her mother would surely reprimand someone if she knew the state that her precious floors laid in. She resumed her focus upon the fact that it no longer mattered, and she would soon make her escape, as the room descended into darkness.
This time, however, a bit of light still shone. A door off to the right, the same door that barred her from the music and laughter, had let a bit of the party escape. From beneath the door, shapes danced in the wisps of light that peaked from beneath, but as the shapes changed, the meaning did not; the light resided in there, and Megan did not. She remained in the darkness, where her mother believed she belonged. She scowled at the door, marring her otherwise graceful porcelain features.
Another clap of thunder sent her running down the remaining stairs, across the marble floors, past the table with its gloves and flowers, past the closet, and past the door that kept her from the life she so longed to have. She stopped in front of The Doors. Her head tilted back slightly as she looked at it, all of the intricate designs and swirls that someone long ago lovingly carved into it, but she couldn’t appreciate its beauty. Instead, she wanted to get as far away from this room as possible, never to look upon it again. She dropped her gaze to the golden handle that had been locked firmly into place and tugged the door open, letting the fierce rain inside for only a moment before stepping outside, and pulling The Doors closed behind her.
The rain pelted her face and hands as she pulled up the raven hood on the cloak that covered her dress, protecting it from the elements and keeping her warm. She hesitated for only a moment before running across the stone porch, down the stone steps, and into her cold and wet future. The cloak swirled about her legs violently as the wind whipped it from side to side, threatening to trip her on several occasions. The wind ravaged her hair as well, plastering it to her face, Megan having to lift her hand many times to clear her eyes of the heavy, wet, auburn mass. She turned her cobalt eyes only once to look upon the house, its upstairs windows each having a candle giving off a feeling of warmth, an illusion that she had never felt.
As she took her last look at the structure before her, a pair of familiar eyes seemingly met her own as yet another flash of lightening illuminated the sky. His eyes stayed focused upon hers, and Megan felt frozen where she stood. Older than she by a handful of years, he studied her, his eyes squinting to get a better look, his brows knit together in thought. He disappeared from the window, and Megan quickly spun in several circles, nearly tripping, in an attempt to find a path, any path, to freedom. She felt her chance slowly slipping away; if she didn’t move quickly, she would lose it and find herself caught, once again ruining a party beyond repair. A heavy sigh, shoulders slumped, and for a brief moment she considered surrender.
The heavy doors moving from their home caught her eyes as the light from the party spilled onto the porch she had inhabited only a few brief moments before. She saw the boy emerge from the doors looking every inch a sentry who had come to capture a wayward escapee. The thought triggered several different still frames of her life that caused her heart to race even faster, and her chest heave with the efforts of taking in air. She turned and ran, darting into the forest at the edge of their home, praying that the shadows and foliage would hide and protect her.
The man pulled open the doors that barred the girl outside from the warmth that he felt within. He assumed that she must have been some homeless girl, but then, he wondered, how had she found herself in the middle of the country and with such an expensive cloak. Even from that distance, he could tell that she had a heavy velvet cloak that only a noble could afford, and the girl hardly looked like a thief. He scanned the horizon but could find no trace of the girl, and he looked incredulously about the front drive, wondering, as he went back inside and closed the doors, how a girl who had seemingly appeared from nowhere could disappear in much the same manner.
__________________ <div align="center">Bethany, Wife to Andrew, and Mommy to Victoria</div>