So, last night was the first of six weekly writing classes called Sudden Fiction. Graciously, the classes are free and take place at the Live Oak Public Libraries. (Just another in an infinitely long list of reasons why libraries are so important and wonderful.) I met a fun group of writers and I can’t wait to see them again. Our teacher, Lee Heffner, spoke about a few writing tip before she gave us the prompt to write about “sense”. I took her literally and chose sound, making sure my little scene used as many sound-related descriptions as possible. I was actually quiet pleased with the result of the little exercise. It’s amazing what comes out when you just sit and do it.
She stepped out of the carriage, her delicate shoes crunching the fine gravel underfoot. The horse whinnied impatiently and clopped his hoof. A short snap from the liveried driver settles his rustling, but puffs of harried steam shot out of his muzzle, like a softened tea kettle’s whistle. She gathered her skirts, careful to keep them clean, and bunched the gathers in her gloved hand. Her dress made a delightful swishing sound. It was soft, comforting, and it reminded her of her mother’s embrace. As she reached the first step, she heard the driver coax the horse and the carriage clattered away into the softly falling night.
Each footfall on the ancient stone steps brought her closer. The cool, measured ascension was reassuring. Solid, repetitive. One last step.
At the entrance, she demurely looked from under her cloak’s hood and whispered her name to the house staff. His brass buttons shone and rattled as he turned to his assistant. “May I have your things, madam,” he intoned. Her cloak slid off silently and she straightened her silk dress and pulled her elbow gloves taut. And then her name was shouted across the marble hall. The announcement of her arrival echoed, then hung for a moment before it was swallowed up in the din of the party. She slowly scanned the room, looking for a familiar face. Then she slowly descended into the crowd and was engulfed by pressed tails and taffeta gowns. In another room a string quartet played a quadrille. Lithe, patterned steps metered the music. In another corner she heard the low, satisfying thump of a champagne cork, then the delicious harmony as the bottle was emptied. She was suddenly thirsty.
The closeness of the room eased a bit as she sidled through the other guests. She flashed polite smiles but gave non one an invitation.
She reached for a glass of champagne but a man’s hand reached out and stopped her. She met his glance and returned it with a hard look, then spun away. She ducked behind a cackling woman and her boisterously drunk husband, then found the nearest balcony to slip out to. She let the latch click quietly behind her and the party became nothing but background din. She heard herself exhale, and the blood rushing in her ears. Another breath.
The night was fine and quiet. It was a world away from the Bacchanalia inside. Only a far-away garden fountain mumbled. How much difference a wall can make! Even just a window. Right now it was all that was between her and what she must face.