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.”

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.

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.

Tokens

This little scene from my current NaNo was inspired by a word prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth: book

**

Mikas settled in a corner of the cabin with his knees drawn up to his chest.  Most of the others were relaxing as well.  Jefferson and Samantha were playing chest.  Cedar was playing cards with Andrien and Lark, while Brook watched over his charge.  Ilya was busily crocheting.  He’d finished the head of his little cat and had moved on to the body.  To Mikas, it looked more like a fox than a cat, but he wasn’t going to say that to his cousin.  Ilya was too pleased with his work for Mikas to say anything that might upset him.

Mikas was holding a battered old book in his lap.  It had been a gift from Sergei near the end of their relationship.  It was a piece of historical fiction set hundreds of years ago, when his homeland had been strong and independent.  Although Sergei had always called him by the name the Veligradians had given him, he’d also always acknowledged that Mikas wasn’t truly Veligradian.  He’d been one of the few who did.

He wondered if Sergei realized he’d kept that book – that final gift.  One part of him doubted it.  After all, Mikas had ended the relationship only a few weeks later.  More than likely, Sergei thought it was something he’d done or said – that Mikas had left in anger.  However, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“Why’d you break it off with him?” Ilya asked, breaking into Mikas’s thoughts.  His brows furrowed.  “That book… it’s one of the few things that you brought with you when you left and… he gave it to you.  Right?”

Mikas nodded.  He flipped open the cover.  It had an inscription written in Veligradian.  It was just two words.  “Love, always,” he read.  Then, he shook his head.  He looked up at Ilya and shrugged.  “It scared me.  I was… twenty-two years old and he was thirty-four and he gave me this book and said that he would always love me and… that terrified me.”

Ilya’s brows furrowed.  “I was married when I was just nineteen, Mikas,” he said.  He shrugged.  “Sometimes, the heart just knows.”

Mikas nodded.  “For years, I wondered if I’d made a mistake in breaking up with him,” he said.  Then, he smiled and looked over at Ilya.  “Then, I met Vin and… the idea of loving this person for always wasn’t scary.”

“Then, I’d say, you didn’t make a mistake,” Ilya said.  He patted Mikas on the hand and then turned his attention back to his crochet.  “What will you do with the book?”

“It’s past time that I gave it back,” Mikas said.  Then, he snapped the cover closed and tucked it back into his bag.  The question was: would there be a good moment to make it clear to Sergei that he’d truly moved on?  Perhaps he’d be lucky and Sergei would laugh to think he still had the battered old book.  Somehow, though, he doubted that he could be so fortunate.

Oh, what fun!

My except from the Week of November 9-15. This was written during the all-night write-in on Saturday.

**

Mikas shook his head and then looked at Cedar. “In all seriousness, though, he’s not the sort of man it would be wise to cross.” His brows furrowed. “He pretends to be easy-going, even a bit flaky. You know, not the brightest crayon in the box, that sort?”

“Just the opposite?” Cedar said, nodding.

“Exactly.” He was shaking his head. “It was actually kind of annoying, sometimes. He’d decide that someone was dispensable because they had made him angry and he’d have me take them out.”

“Sounds like a real charmer,” River said, his voice soft. He was looking over the printed sheet of information that they had on the case. “According to what they’ve told us, the explosives may have come from the construction site. However, their findings, thus far, have been inconclusive.”

“Not surprising,” Jefferson said, rolling his eyes. “I mean, Veligrad is a dusty little backwater. Isn’t it?”

“That dusty little backwater was my home for over thirty years,” Ilya reminded him, archly. He glanced over at Mikas and then shrugged. “I suppose that calling such a place home is better than not having a place to call home.”

“I’d rather be homeless than be called a Veligradian,” Mikas said, shaking his head. “They invaded my home, you’ll recall.”

“Do you need a hug?” Jefferson asked. Mikas rolled his eyes and blew a raspberry, which earned gales of laughter from the Anglian.

“Can we please be just a little bit serious?” Cedar asked. He frowned and shook his head. “I know that is difficult for thee, but this is not thy playtime, Hatter.”

“Oh, no,” Jefferson said, pretending fear. “He’s brought out his moorish parlance. Now, I’m in trouble. Aren’t I?”

Cedar’s eyes went flinty and he looked over at Lark. “The old Hatter grates on the nerves, Lark. I don’t know which is worse.” Her laughter was evanescent and he shook his head in despair. “You’ve created a monster, Lark. This isn’t cause for laughter.”

“Relax, Cedar,” Ilya said, shaking his head. “We’ll become more serious when we get to Veligrad – when we’re at the scene.”

“He’s right,” Samantha said, nodding. “Right now, there’s nothing else we can do, except loaf around and watch the aquatic animals through the portholes.”

Deceptive Views

Here is a little scene from my current NaNo, inspired by a picture from the WriYe DreamWidth.  Technically, the picture is of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Still, it fits nicely with the setting of my story.

**

Puerto Vallarta, MexicoIlya looked up from the file again and then gasped softly. “Look at that view,” he said, his voice soft.

From the angle of the car, the sea beyond was visible. The water was a soft blue-gray that reflected the clouds in the sky. The horizon was edged with orange and pink. All in all, Ilya could feel the promise of a beautiful day. He had to remind himself that this was not a pleasure trip.

“It’s hard to believe that anything bad could happen in a place like this,” Lark said, shaking her head. She looked at Brook, who was still studying the case file. “Oh, do look,” she said.

Brook looked up from the file and nodded. A faint smile touched his lips. “It’s quite lovely,” he said. Then, he gave her a sidelong glance. “I assure you, even in such a beautiful place, terrible things sometimes happen.”

“Some people make a living by preying on unsuspecting tourists,” Samantha said, nodding. She smiled at Lark and shrugged. “Sorry to shatter your illusions.”

Lark chuckled and shook her head. “Don’t worry about it, Carpenter,” she said. She looked over at Ilya, giving him a playful wink. “It’s still nice to pretend that this place is the paradise it seems to be.”

“At least until we’re forced to face the cold truth of reality,” Ilya said, nodding. He looked back down at the file and frowned faintly. Had Swan and Nimo ever suspected that they would meet with life-threatening danger in a place like this?

Let Him Eat Cake

Here is a little scene that I wrote in response to a prompt (word: Cake) from the WriYe DreamWidth – it precedes “A Snap Decision” in my November NaNovel.

**

Mikas trailed along behind Andrien as they moved through the room.  It was like a repeat of their practice case.  Was it really only a week ago that they’d failed so miserably to work as a cohesive unit?  He heaved a sigh and shook his head.  In spite of their performance in Frankonia, they had to do another practice mission.  He didn’t know who’d made the decision, but when he found out, there would be words.

“This is so foolish,” he murmured, as he scanned the room for their target.  “Haven’t we already proved ourselves?  We caught a killer, for Heaven’s sake.”

“Chief Rail didn’t feel that was sufficient,” Andrien said.  Then, he nodded towards Angie Hogancamp.  The woman still had her bag tucked under one arm.  Ilya had an identical bag, just as he had on that night one week before.

“Cake?” a familiar voice said.

Mikas looked up and hid a smile as he saw Jefferson stooping to offer a slice of cake to Andrien.  As the nobleman took the cake, with words of delight, Mikas snatched it away from him.  “You’re on a diet,” he said, his tone firm.

Andrien, very much on cue, tried to snatch it back.  In the process, he knocked into Jefferson, who fell back and dumped the entire tray of cake slices onto Miss Angie Hogancamp.  “Oh, my,” Andrien said.  He swept in, ever the gentleman and began trying to help the woman clean herself up.  The first thing he did was take her bag, of course.

While he handed her napkins and kept her thoroughly distracted, he slipped the bag to Mikas, who slipped it to Ilya.  Taking the other bag, he waited patiently while Andrien drove Hogancamp into a tizzy with his insistence on “helping” her.

“That will do,” she said, finally.  She glared at Mikas, as if to say that the entire thing was his fault, before she snatched the bag from his hands.  “You’ll hear from my drycleaner, Lord Andrien,” she added.  Then, she turned and swept out of the room.

Mikas hid a smile and then looked at Andrien.  “Cake,” he said.  “It’s so much more… distracting than champagne.”

“Indeed,” Andrien said, as he munch happily on the only slice that had survived the incident.

They didn’t get to hear how things had turned out until they could leave without raising any kind of alarm.  However, their first stop was the office.  Mikas only had to see the pleased smile on Cedar’s face and hear Ilya’s laughter to know that everything had turned out as planned.

“That was a good lark,” Jefferson said, shaking his head.  “I didn’t even mind having to play a waiter.”

“You should have seen the look on her face,” Cedar said, as he turned to Andrien.  He chuckled and shook his head.  “She was like, ‘Your team still has so much to learn’ and showed Engus the bag.”

“Open it,” Ilya said, smirking.  He nodded and added, “That’s what Cedar said and… when she opened it and here’s this note from Lark, ‘Thank you for the bag’.”  He broke off with a chuckle and shook his head.

“Then, Ilya held up her bag and smiled at Rail,” Torin said, nodding.  He looked at Cedar and said, “I thought that the chief might kiss you then.”

“He leaves that for his niece to do,” Cedar said.  He chuckled and waved them off.  “Go home.  I’ll see you all tomorrow.  Great work, people.”  It was, over all, a great way to end a case.

Excerpt 1

A portion of my NaNo from Day 1 of NaNoWriMo:

There was a plan! A good plan…

The ballroom of the Obrian Palace was a large room with a high, vaulted ceiling.  White sheers hung from the ceiling down to the floor, encircling the room.  Someone had cut large branches of pink and white flowers and set them as centerpieces and as decorative displays around the room.  The result was to give the room an almost ethereal quality.  It looks like an enchanted forest had been moved inside for that night.

Normally, sounds echoed in the large room.  Tonight was anything but normal.  It was the young king’s birthday celebration and it looked as though everyone in Obria had turned out to honor him with their presence.  The room seemed to be filled with both tables and people.  Some people were sitting at one of the tables around the perimeter of the room, enjoying the food.  Others were standing in small groups, chatting.  The center of the room was cleared, so that people could dance to the music played by a group on a stage at the head of the room.

Ilya leaned against the wall in an attempt to look casual.  It shouldn’t have been so difficult for him to do that.  After all, he was an undercover agent.  He should be used to seeming to be one thing when he was really the exact opposite.  It was his job.  Right?

The problem was that so much was riding on this mission going off without any mistakes.  Both Rail and Cedar had impressed upon the team the importance of their success.  That pressure made Ilya nervous.  He checked his watch.  When he looked up, he saw their target stepping across the room.  Angie Hogancamp held a small bag in one hand and a drink in the other.  Her bag was exactly the same as the one Ilya had tucked under his arm.  That was part of the plan.

Ilya looked away from Hogancamp and then frowned.  Jefferson was not in position.  He was meant to be finding Andrien and giving him the drink that he would need for the plan.  Instead, he was on the other side of the room, holding a tray of fancy crab cakes.  The faint frown on his face made Ilya think that the other agent was struggling with how to proceed.  Biting his lip, Ilya slipped across the room.

He snatched one of the crab cakes off the platter.  “Where can I get some champagne?” he asked.  His question came out in a light, casual tone.

Jefferson rolled his eyes.  “Not from me,” he said.  He shrugged and shook his head.  In a softer voice, he said, “Earth’ll just have to drop food on the bitty.”

“You can’t get drunk on crab cakes,” Ilya snapped, his voice a low hiss.  “The plan was for him to appear drunk.  How’d you end up with a tray of food anyway?”

“You’re not the boss of me, Tanner,” Jefferson said, becoming angry.  He looked at the near-empty tray and then flung it out the window.  “I’ll get myself a drink tray now.”

As Jefferson swept away from him, Ilya heard a peculiar noise.  It sounded like a cacophony of percussive beats combined with a high whistle.  He looked out the window and his eyes widened.  Wolfie’s ducks had taken flight.  The tray had spooked them.  “Shit,” Ilya breathed.  He whirled back towards the room and bit his lip again.  Where had Hogancamp gone?

Ilya keyed the little speaker in his ear and whispered, “Cedar, the ducks have taken flight.”  His call wasn’t answered and he knew that could only mean one thing: Cedar was nearly in position.  He’d gone to silence, so that he wouldn’t deafen any of them when he began to play.  Ilya breathed a curse.  This was bad.  This was all kinds and various ways of not good.

Previous Older Entries