Chapter one: ‘The best days of your life’
Historical Romance – draft 1
Miranda tossed back her fiery copper hair. Loose waves tumbled onto the deep forest velvet of her gown. Sunlight filtered in to the small turret room through a window slit, set high in the wall of the tower. The bright motes danced in her hair and flushed her pale skin rose under a smattering of freckles. She shook her head and anger creased the perfectly smooth skin of her brow.
‘Father, despite our allegiances, despite my duty as a woman, I cannot marry Sir. Raife.’ Miranda stopped her pacing and turned to the grizzled, burly man filling the doorway. The old knight’s shoulders tensed.
‘Daughter, you continue to frustrate me. God’s blood, but the match is a fine one. You will have a generous dowry and Raife has brought honour to his name in the holy crusades.’ His thick brows beetled with displeasure.
Miranda snorted and turned on her heel, pacing away from her intransigent father. Why could he not see that she was unable to love a man who had only iron in his soul?
Sir. Ranulph placed his heavy hand on the doorframe; it creaked under the pressure of his thick fingers. ‘Child, you have been my only joy since your mother passed into grace. Do not defy my wishes. Honour your father, honour your betrothal to this worthy man.’
Bitterly Miranda span around to face her father; her auburn hair fanned out around her like dancing tongues of flame. Her bright blue eyes flashed with defiance. ‘I have followed your every wish my lord, but I entreat you, do not force me to marry this man. It will kill me!’
The room echoed with her words. The old knight looked at his daughter, pity and compassion in his eyes, blue like her own. But there was no hint of this in his rough voice as he replied, ‘There is no place for an undutiful daughter in my house. Marry Sir Raife on St. Swithin’s Day, or prepare to take your vows.’ The old man turned and slammed the heavy door shut. There followed the scraping sound of the ancient iron lock.
Heartsick, Miranda slumped onto the lavish silk of her counterpane. She twisted her small hands in the fabric and wept bitterly.
‘That doesn’t make sense.’
‘I’m sorry, what?’ Emma asked startled. She looked up from her desk in the English office.
‘That sentence: ‘There followed the scraping sound of the ancient iron lock’. Well, Ok, it makes sense, but your syntax is dodgy. Why not put ‘The ancient lock snapped shut’, or how about ‘the heavy door slammed shut with a scrape of ancient iron’?’ James grinned at his colleague’s frown and took another bite of his apple. ‘It just reads better. Oh and I think that Shakespeare made up the name Miranda for The Tempest, so if you’re writing about the crusades, you’re roughly speaking 400 years out.’ He finished eating the apple and threw the core into the bin, where it clanged against the metal.
‘James, don’t you have somewhere else to be? A social life, some marking….anything?’ asked Emma minimising the document on her screen and turning to face her colleague.
‘I just wanted to pass on my historical expertise,’ replied the tall young man leaning against the doorway. James was in his mid-20s, with shaggy brown hair and a disreputable suit. Like Emma, teaching at Holmwood Grange was his first job out of university. They shared an office along with Carol, who was part-time and had lost her nerve according to staff gossip and the mildly terrifying head of department, Judith Blakelock.
‘Anyway you’ve been so elusive about this novel you’re writing. I thought I’d take a quick peek,’ James craned his head around at Emma’s desk. She scooped up her notes and shoved them haphazardly in the drawer.
‘No. I don’t think so. You can proof read it when it’s finished. If it ever gets finished.’ Emma sighed and curled her short, fair hair behind her ears. While she loved teaching, she’d had the ambition to write since she was a little girl, however nothing ever quite got finished. At her parent’s house she still had boxes full of diaries, fantasy stories and piles of notes. She’d been working on her romance novella for the last six months and had precisely one page. Emma leaned back in her chair, it felt good to stretch out her muscles. Her wrists cracked loudly.
‘Ouch,’ James winced sympathetically. ‘It seems like our whole generation will need replacement hands. Too much typing, or too much video gaming?’ Emma rolled her eyes, ‘Video gaming, clearly James, because I honestly do have the time to do that alongside everything else.’
James chuckled and walked the short distance to his desk. It was a chaotic mess in comparison to Emma’s. He peered into the recesses of an abandoned coffee mug and shuddered. He tipped the mug upside down and the contents stayed put. ‘Yeuch, I’ve made penicillin again. Perhaps I should take this over to science? They’d probably be able to do something creative with it.’
‘I think that they’ve been creative with vodka instead.’ Emma replied lifting her own coffee mug to chug back the last mouthful. She grimaced at the bitter taste and nibbled on a digestive left over from lunch. There were always biscuits around the staffroom. The amount seemed to vary depending on stress levels and the time of the year. In September, with everyone’s good intentions, you were more likely to get offered some dried fruit, or a cup of herbal tea. But by exam time, the healthy eating went right out of the window and instead everyone spent their lunch breaks sharing cakes, biscuits and sweets along with cup after cup of strong, black coffee.
‘Vodka?’ said James, his eyes lighting up, ‘they certainly know how to celebrate the end of term. You coming to the pub tonight Em?’
Emma shook her head. ‘No, I’m meeting Maggie for swimming and cake. I think we might be out tomorrow night though.’ She crossed her legs and tapped her teeth with a pen.
James shook his head and carried on tidying his desk. ‘I’ll never understand women. Doesn’t that sound a bit wrong to you – exercise followed by empty calories?’ He picked up a pile of homework assignments and slid them into his messenger bag along with a copy of Catcher in the Rye.
Emma chuckled, ‘Ah, but the exercise cancels out the cake. You’ve burned the calories before you even get to the tasty reward. Win, win.’ She put the pen down on the keyboard and absently fiddled with her earring while James carried on sorting out his marking. Turning her attention back to the PC, she typed:
- Check Miranda – what else could I call her?
- Isabel? Needs more history
‘Needs a hero,’ Emma muttered to herself, rubbing her eyes.
This is the opening section from a novel that I started a while ago. Please excuse the fact that it’s a first draft (and definitely needs a bit of work!). I hope that you like it! I’ll post some more over the next few weeks.
I should point out that even though it’s about a teacher, it isn’t a self-insert! Promise.
Image from Wikipedia.