A Bit Lost

My genre stretch story this month.  The challenge was to write a fairy tale retelling.  I think I did a pretty good job…

**

 

Roland gave his younger sister a sidelong glance.  May was sitting quietly beside him as the train rumbled through the tunnel towards the next stop.  She was swinging her feet and looking around at the other passengers with wide eyes.  He could tell that she wasn’t nervous, the way he was.  Why was that?

He heaved a light sigh as the train rumbled to a stop.  Standing, he reached for her hand.  “Come on, May-bird,” he said, using her childhood nickname.

May caught his hand in hers and let him lead the way off the train and onto the platform.  “Everything is so big here,” she said, looking around.  She quickened her pace and then looked up at Roland.  “Do you think we’ll find Lukas?”

Roland shrugged.  “We have to,” he said.  The problem was, he didn’t really know where they were going.  He knew this was the stop they were supposed to get off on.  However, that was all he knew.  Now, he just had to hope that he could find the place.

More

Advertisements

New Home

A little scene with some new characters inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth (multitude of books).

**

Rainer was exploring what would be his new home.  So far, he’d only seen the bedrooms, the bath, the foyer and the dining room, not to mention the corridors between them.  However, he knew there was far more to the house than the few places he’d visited.

He started out on the first level.  In one room, through a door off the dining room, he found the kitchen.  Miss Kateryna was hard at work in there, so he left without saying anything to her.  He headed into the corridor that led to the foyer and found another room.  Peering inside, he found that it was a cozy sitting room.  It looked like the sort of place where you might entertain guests who had come by for afternoon tea.  He chuckled at the thought and shook it away.  People didn’t have afternoon tea anymore.

He moved to a room across the foyer from the sitting room and froze in the doorway.  The room was clearly some kind of office or study.  The only place Rainer had ever seen so many books was in the school library.  He slipped into the room and began glancing over the bindings.

Nearly all of them had writing that he couldn’t make heads or tails of and he sighed.  It was like being adrift at sea without drinkable water.  He was surrounded by books that he couldn’t read.  He grabbed one at random and began paging through it.  If he couldn’t read it, maybe he could look at the pictures.

“Can I help you, sir?” a soft voice said.

Rainer turned towards the voice, even as he tucked the book back onto the shelf.  “Hello, Pavel,” he said, grimacing.  He heaved a sigh and waved around at the multitude of books.  “I… can’t read Velegradian.”

Pavel’s eyes widened and he slipped into the room.  He moved over to a side of the room that Rainer hadn’t explored yet.  “These books are written in Alamanni,” he said, waving at one set of shelves.  He looked back at Rainer.  “You can read that language, yes?”

“Yes,” Rainer said, grinning.  Their father had made sure they were fluent in the language of his homeland.  He stepped over to the shelves and grinned at the familiar writing.  It was like seeing an old friend.  Snatching one of the books down, he moved over to an overstuffed chair near the window and settled down to read.  Exploring could wait until later.  For now, he was in his element.

That Red Dress

This story was inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.  The dress reminded me of the sort of pencil skirts they wore in the 1950s… so my mind went to this universe.  Felicja and Ilya are such a fun couple…

**

58e24045d97aa810cd888286c208ae59

Ilya looked up as his wife stepped into the room.  Her sandals clicked on the tiles as she moved across the room.  He whistled at her between his teeth and grinned when she stopped to frown at him.

“That’s a look I could never pull off,” he said, shaking his head.

Felicja smirked and crossed her arms over her chest.  “I might let you try… later,” she said, arching her brows.

Henryk looked between his parents and then shook his head.  “There is just no safe place to go with that,” he said, glancing over at his sister.

Zofia chuckled.  “No,” she agreed, “there really isn’t.”

Ilya rolled his eyes and reached out to ruffle his hand through Henryk’s hair.  “Can’t I compliment your mother on her dress?”

“Sure, you can,” Henryk said, shaking his locks back into their proper position.  “Just… you know, we don’t need to know about what happens behind the closed bedroom door.”

“We know enough, actually.  We can do without the details,” Zofia clarified.  She bounced to her feet and beckoned to her brother.  “On that note… we’re off to school.”

“You kids behave,” Henryk told them, as they grabbed their jackets and schoolbags and hurried out the door.

Felicja leaned back on the kitchen counter and smiled.  “The kids are off to school,” she said, arching her brows.

Laughing, Ilya leaned up to kiss her lightly on the mouth.  Rubbing a finger against her cheek, he said, “Tempting though that sounds… we need to be off to work.”

Asking Questions

Here is a little scene based on a word prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth (goldfish).  It’s set before my November NaNo.  Gilbert is seeking advice on Ilya’s little problem…

**

The last time that Gilbert had seen them, they were leaping from one bowl to another.  At the time, he’d tried not to wonder why someone would want to train goldfish to leap out of hot water.  He’d also tried not to think about what had happened to the fish that hadn’t taken to the training.  Instead, he’d gone about his business.

Now, he frowned at Dr. Beaumont as she walked over to the river with the bowl.  Two fish swam in circles around the bowl.  They seemed to know that something was about to happen.  “What are you doing?” he asked.

“Ah, Dr. Schneider,” she said, as she dumped the bowl – along with the pair of goldfish – into the river.  “How is your little project going?  I have heard that you’ve added to your… collection.”

Gilbert nodded.  She’d utterly ignored his question.  That wasn’t unusual.  He ignored Wolfie when he asked questions about things he wasn’t supposed to know.  That reluctance to answer alone served as something of an answer.  “I’ve got three more… Chorus members,” he said, using the code word that the Agency had given him to use when referring to people housed in the Singer units.  “I’m having trouble with one, though.”

“Oh?”

Nodding, Gilbert held out a file.  As she took it, he said, “Singer three, codename Tanner, named Ilya Putin… he’s been leaving, for lack of a better word.”

Dr. Beaumont’s eyes scanned the pages as she read quickly.  After a moment, she nodded.  “You wonder why this might be.  Yes?”

“Yes,” Gilbert said, crossing his arms over his chest.  “The Boss said you had a theory that might explain it.”

“My theory is that Ramias, Kazlauskas, and Jefferson have one thing in common,” she said.  Then, she waved at the water.  “They are goldfish.”

“Goldfish?” Gilbert said, blinking.  He shook his head.  “I don’t follow.”

“Goldfish will only grow so large,” she said, motioning with her fingers to show the average size of a goldfish.  Then, she smiled and pointed towards the river.  “Unless they live in a larger environment,” she said.

Nodding, Gilbert said, “They fit, so to speak, in the Singer unit because… it’s not any bigger than the natural body they used to have.”  When she nodded, he frowned.  “And Putin?”

“Is not a goldfish,” she said, shrugging.  “He is the carp and the goldfish bowl is too small for him.”

For a moment, Gilbert stared at her.  Then, his eyes widened.  “Most people are goldfish,” he murmured.  She smiled and nodded.  Meeting her eyes, he said, “Felicja… she’d be a carp too and Madeline.”

“Yes,” Dr. Beaumont said, grinning.  “What,” she said, “do you supposed would happen if you tried to keep a carp in a goldfish bowl?”

Gilbert bit his lip and nodded.  “We need to find a way to make his transition back to his own body permanent,” he said.  “Otherwise, he’ll die.”

“Precisely,” Dr. Beaumont said, nodding.

It was a few moments before Gilbert spoke again.  Then, he nodded and looked intently at Dr. Beaumont.  “I have some ideas.  Would you be willing to help?”  When she smiled, he took that as a yes.  Then, he started back towards the building with her trailing behind him.  “What do you do with goldfish?”

“What does your little brother do with all those ducks?” Dr. Beaumont asked, which of course, wasn’t really an answer to his question.  At the same time, it told him all he needed to know.

Traditions

This little scene between Ilya and Felicja was base on a word prompt from WriYe’s DreamWidth.  The story Felicja mentions is actually linked with St. Nicholas.  As today is St. Nicholas’s Day, I felt it was appropriate.

**

For Ilya, the season of year turning always reminded him of oranges.  As soon as the weather began to get cold and people began hauling out the greenery to hang all over the buildings and wrap around the lampposts, he craved the round fruits that were the color of their name.  For a long time, he wondered about that.  The connection bothered him because he didn’t know where it came from.

That changed the first Year Turning that he spent with his wife and children.  Felicja was sitting by the fire with her knitting.  He was trying to make a list of things they would pick up at the store when they went shopping the next day.  “Remember to get some oranges,” Felicja said, without looking up.

“Oranges?” he repeated, blinking.  He didn’t even think that Felicja liked them very well.  She never seemed to eat them.  “For the kids?”

Felicja paused and looked up at him.  “It’s a tradition,” she said, shrugging.  “They represent the gold balls that were gifted to the poor man’s daughters.  Eating them is supposed to bring good luck in the coming year.”

Ilya chuckled softly and nodded.  “My parents always gave us oranges at Year Turning,” he said, as he wrote the word on the shopping list.  “I always feel like I want them this time of year, but… I never made the connection.”

“It’s like hanging greenery,” Felicja said, shrugging.  “We do things without knowing why we do them.  Only that we always have.  You’ve always eaten oranges this time of year, so you feel like you should eat oranges.”

Librarians…

Here is the next little section of my NaNo.  It was based partly on a photo prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.

**

52dc911c3a142665da760c757c690431By the time that the snow had abated, Felicja was acting more like her usual self. She’d dried her tears and, currently, she was directing everyone to set about cleaning the house. Once they had things tidied to her specifications, they could began gathering the candles and greenery that would go around the house to celebrate the upcoming holiday.

Ilya made his way up to the second level of the home and peered into the room that functioned as the family’s library. The books were most second-hand, many older than either Felicja or Ilya. He stepped over to a shelf and began dusting as he straightened the books.

They seldom used the library. There seemed to be a perpetual draft coming from somewhere. Ilya had checked the windows and doors, but he hadn’t found the source of the cold.

He suppressed a shiver and then blinked when he noticed that he could see stonework through the back of the shelf. It was an outer wall. With no interior corridor to insulate it, the cold seeped right through the wall and into the room. “No wonder it’s so cold in here,” he breathed.

He shook his head slightly. What could they do to keep out some of the cold? He chewed his lip. He could put tapestries up. Wasn’t that how they’d kept out the cold in old castles? The question was: how would he put a tapestry behind the bookshelf?

He rubbed at his nose and turned away from the wall, just as Felicja stepped into the room. “I figured out where our draft comes from,” he said, pointing at the brick wall behind the shelf.

“If you put the shelf at the center of the room,” Felicja said, waving at the empty space between them. “Then, we could hang some kind of wall covering.”

Ilya blinked and then nodded. “I’ll get Mikas to help me, once he get off of work,” he said. Then, he glanced at the books. “Meanwhile, maybe Henryk could come up and help me clear off this shelf?”

Felicja nodded. “I’ll get him and Zofia. We can all work on it,” she said. She turned away, calling for both children.

Ilya turned back to the bookshelves. Then, he began taking the books off of them and piling them on a table near the window. Hopefully, once the shelves were empty, they’d be light enough for he and Mikas to move them.

Wild Weather…. Whirlwind Emotions…

Here is a scene that I wrote for my NaNo that was partly inspired by a word prompt (wild) from the WriYe DreamWidth.  Please don’t think that this is the way Felicja usually acts.  She’s just a bit emotional right now.  (However, it was such a departure from her normal character that it was fun to write.)

**

Ilya moaned softly as he woke. He rolled over in bed and frowned to see that he was alone. “Felicja?” he called, sitting up. “Where are you?”

She stepped back in from the next room and then pointed outside. “Would you look at that?” she said, her voice taking on a hard edge. She sat down heavily and then snuggled back under the covers. “Look at that snow, Husband!”

Frowning, Ilya grabbed his glasses off the nightstand and settled them in place in front of his eyes. He blinked at the window. In the early morning light, he could see the fields beyond their home blanketed in white. That wasn’t too surprising. He slipped out of bed and padded over to the window. Behind him, Felicja grumbled about how she didn’t want to have to deal with the mess alone.

He looked down towards the walk. The night before, it had been clear. Now, it was covered. He blinked and looked at one of the nearby walls. “We must have gotten a foot of snow overnight,” he breathed. Then, he realized that it was still coming down. No wonder Felicja was in a tizzy. Such wild weather was uncommon in Sarmaci.

He shook his head and then returned to her side. “Would you like for me to stay home with you today?” he asked, his voice soft. “I just have to write my report from our last case. I can do that here and send it by courier.”

Tears welled in her eyes and she nodded. “Two weeks until year turning,” she said. Then she waved out at the snow. “How are we going to get the greens hung with this going on? I don’t want it, Husband!”

Then, quite unexpectedly, she was sobbing and burying her face against his bare chest. He flushed when he heard the door opening. He had just enough time to cover both of them before Henryk peered inside, blinking sleepily.

“Why’s Mama crying?” he asked around a yawn.

“Because women sometimes become emotional when they’re getting ready to have babies,” Ilya said, as he hugged Felicja gently. “She’s not happy because the snow ruined her plans for the day.”

Henryk nodded and then rubbed at his eyes. “It’ll be all right, Mama,” he said. He yawned again and added, “We’ll help decorate when the snow stops.”

“A-all right,” Felicja said, as she tried to quiet her sobs. When Henryk left, she gave Ilya a watery smile. “We have such good kids,” she said. Then she was sobbing again.

Ilya heaved a sigh and continued to hold her until she finally quieted. Then, he kissed her brow and grabbed his robe off the foot of the bed. He pushed his feet into slippers as he drew the robe closed around his body and tied it in place. “I’m going to call Cedar and tell him that I’ll work from home,” he said.

Hail and Hart-y

This is a scene from my NaNo that was partly inspired by a photo prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.  It was fun writing about the budding romance between River and Ice.

**

3b7cce5ae2571ce01926f1dfdeae714cThe Hail and Hart-y Soup Shop was a little restaurant that specialized in soups and sandwiches. It had been opened by a pair of former Obrian Agents who were now informants for the Service.

Most people went there for lunch. However, many people enjoyed the soup enough to visit the place for dinner as well. For those people, the restaurant served the soup in large bowls with loafs of fresh, hot peasant bread on the side. It had become Torin’s favorite eatery since his mother’s death, partly because it was so close to his home.

Because of the storm, the place was rather busy. Torin stood near the door with Ice while they waited to be seated. He glanced around at the décor. The corner near the entrance had weathered-looking shades to block out the worst of the weather. Someone, either Hail or Hart, had decided to set up crockery and pitchers, one with flowers set in it. Torin wondered idly where they had flowers that time of year. However, before he could check to see if they were real, the hostess was guiding them to a table in the back corner, near the fireplace.

As they settled down at a table together, Torin gave the menu only the most cursory of glances. He already knew what he wanted. He got the same thing every time he visited. He fully expected that the server would ask him if he wanted his usual order.

A faint smile touched his lips when the young woman who arrived smiled at him. “Pease porridge, right?” she said. When he nodded, she turned to Ice. “And what would you like, Miss?” she asked.

“I’ll have the fish soup, please,” Ice said, her voice soft. As the server took their menus and headed away, Ice turned to Torin. She smiled gently and added, “You really enjoy their pease porridge, don’t you?”

Torin gave a soft chuckle. “It reminds me of… a soup that my mama would make when I was small,” he said. He shook his head. “I tried to follow her recipe a few times over the years, after she’d taken ill, but… it never tasted quite right.”

“That’s the way it often is,” Ice said, nodding. “My mama has a recipe for cookies that… they never taste quite right when I make them for myself, only when she makes them for me.” Torin tensed when Ice mentioned her mother, dropping his gaze to the tabletop. He startled when she set her hand over his. “I shouldn’t have reminded you of your mother,” she said, her voice faint. “I’m sorry.”

“Everything reminds me of her,” Torin said. He looked up to find that he was looking into her eyes. He was surprised by just how close she was. It was the first time he could remember her eyes actually focusing on something. Weak as her vision was, she often had a distant sort of gaze. “You shouldn’t have to apologize for talking about your own mother, Agent Ice.”

She smiled and then settled back in her seat once more. Just then, the server returned with a pot of tea and cups. As she went away once again, Torin poured tea for both of them, setting the cup near Ice’s dominant hand.

Still Life

Mikas is a bit frustrated with his art professor.  This scene appears in my NaNo and was inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.

**

b1dab9d59c0b1a900542e682476e0522Mikas couldn’t help but grumble softly to himself as he piled the books and then set out the bottles near the window.  It was maddening to him that the professor insisted that he learn the basics when he already knew how to do so much more.  It would have been one thing if he’d been utterly self-taught and was making mistakes as a result.  Then, he would understand the need to draw objects and focus on shapes and shading and highlights and all the other innate lessons that he was being forced to go through.

However, Mikas knew how to draw, at least on some level.  His alter, Lukas, had taken art classes.  The memories were there and the knowledge was there.  Once he relaxed, the skill was even there.  The only reason that he was taking the classes at all was to bring the knowledge to the front of his mind, so that it wasn’t buried somewhere in his subconscious.  There was also the fact that he couldn’t take more advanced classes until he pushed through these basic ones.  They wouldn’t believe him when he said that, in a way, he was Lukas Grigoravicius.

So, here he was, being forced to gather whatever objects he could to form a scene to draw.  He already knew what would happen.  He would bring the completed piece back to his professor who would say the same thing he had about everything else Mikas had drawn for class.  He had the mechanics – the techniques – now, but there was no feeling – no excitement – in the piece.

“How does he expect me to get excited about drawing bowls of fruit or bottles and books?” he grumbled.  That argument had fallen on deaf ears from the beginning.  He gave up.  If the man wanted feeling and excitement, Mikas would give him what he wanted.  He put every ounce of anger and frustration he felt into drawing the little scene that he’d created.

When he finished, he stepped back to frown at the drawing.  He sighed when Vin stepped up beside him and drew him into an embrace.  “What do you think?” he murmured.  “Will it be ‘dynamic’ enough for the ever-so-perfect art professor?”

“Can’t speak for him,” Vin murmured.  Then, he shook as a silent chuckle swept through him.  “I will say, this, though: this drawing says one thing to me.”

“What’s that?” Mikas asked, glancing over his shoulder.

Vin smiled.  “You’d cheerfully bash him over the head with one of them bottles,” he said, nodding towards the scene.

“Then, you’re feeling the anger,” Mikas said, smirking.  “Good.”  Hopefully, his professor would feel it too.  “I can’t wait until we move on to some real artwork.  I hate drawing these… still lifes.  I’m just glad we’ve graduated beyond, ‘Draw your hand’ or ‘Draw that chair’.”

“Some people draw still lifes their whole career, you know?” Vin said, nodding.

Mikas shrugged.  “Some people paint landscapes for their whole careers too,” he added.  “Others focus on portraits.  That’s fine – because that’s their choice.  That’s not some professor telling them that they have ‘walk before they run.’”  He shook his head.  “I’ve been running for far too long to go back to walking and be content at that pace.”

“Sometimes,” Vin said, “it’s nice to slow down a bit and enjoy a leisurely walk.”  Then, Vin kissed him on the brow and headed into the other room, mumbling something about coffee.

Mikas sighed when he couldn’t find an argument against Vin’s statement.  Perhaps he had been running for too long.  Wasn’t that why he’d begun taking art classes in the first place?  After a moment, he said, “But I don’t want to walk!”  He rolled his eyes when laughter echoed from the next room.

Coming Home

Two little scenes that fit the word prompt: Snuggle from WriYe DreamWidth.  My agents have returned home from a case that took them to Veligrad.  For Mikas and Ilya it was difficult because they’d once lived in Veligrad, so that was “home” – not it isn’t, which they realize as they’re leaving and Mikas says that he can’t wait to get home.

**

Ilya had never felt better about walking through the door of the little cottage he shared with Felicja than he did that day.  It hadn’t even been a difficult case.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  He’d barely been gone for a day.  However, somehow having been in Veligrad again had been more draining than the visit to Frankonia had been.

He set his bag down just inside the entryway and glanced around.  “I’m home,” he called, his voice soft.  He smiled when he heard Felicja call to him from somewhere else in the house.  The children, of course, would be at school during the day.

Leaving his bag, he headed through to the sitting room and then into the kitchen.  Felicja was standing at the stove, stirring a pot.  Sighing, Ilya stepped up to wrap his arms around her.  He smiled when he felt their child stir inside her under his hand.  “I missed you,” he breathed.

“You weren’t gone for very long,” Felicja said.  She chuckled as he nuzzled against her cheek.  In a softer voice, she added, “I missed you too, though.  Maybe it’s because you’d gone to Veligrad.”

“Maybe,” Ilya said.  He looked over her shoulder into the pot and smiled.  He could tell immediately what she was cooking, by the aroma and the sight of the cabbage and other vegetables in the broth.  “Cabbage soup?”

Felicja nodded.  “There’s a chill in the air,” she said.  She glanced outside through the window and shrugged.  “I think we might get snow tonight.  Anyway, it seemed to be a good night for soup and this is what the kids wanted.”

Ilya kissed her cheek once before stepping back to give her space.  It was nice to be home.

**

Mikas felt a little odd as he returned to his apartment in Andrien’s home.  Somehow, it felt wrong to be going home to an empty apartment when what he really wanted to do was to go home to Vin.  He hesitated as he reached his door.  Then, he looked at his watch.  It wasn’t so late yet.  Would he be intruding if he went to see Vin right then?

He shook his head and then headed into his apartment.  He paused long enough to drop off his bag.  Then, he was heading out once again.  In less than half an hour, he was making his way down the corridor of the agency dormitory where Vin lived.  When he reached the door, he closed his eyes and rapped on the smooth wood with his knuckles.

“Hey, Darling,” Vin said, as soon as he opened the door.

Mikas opened his eyes and gave Vin a weak smile.  “Hey,” he said, his voice soft.  He followed Vin into the room and then turned to face him as Vin closed the door.  He shrugged.  “I didn’t want to be alone.”

“Was it tough… being back in Veligrad again?” Vin asked, catching his hand.  He drew Mikas over to the couch and settled down.

Mikas sat down close beside him and then leaned his head on Vin’s shoulder.  “It was… strange,” he said, his voice soft.  “That’s not home anymore.  Obria is… with you.”  He sighed as Vin pressed a kiss to his forehead.

Previous Older Entries