Novel November 5

The howling wind and the door slamming shut woke me up instantly.  Heavy footsteps alerted me to Smythe’s presence, the floor almost vibrating with his footsteps coming towards me.  The room was dark, and I realized that I had slept most of the day away.  The unfinished cloak was rumpled on the ground next to me, and I gathered it into my lap.

I found Smythe has left his wet boots on, and the room’s floor was sodden.  I watched him with slit eyes; he was watching me.  His dark hair was wet and hung in ropes.  His facial hair was also wet, and had some sort of food caught in it, I I noted with disgust.  His small, piggy eyes gazed at me from head to toe and I fought the urge to shudder.  I could smell his unwashed body, and the odor grew as he neared me.  My stomach dropped when he licked his lips and started to crough down before me.

I made a show of waking up and acting surprised to see him.

“Smythe,” I greeted him coldly, watching his face carefully.  I stood up and edged along the wall to get around him and gathered my thoughts.

“I have a stew in the pot if you’re hungry.  Chicken.”

He merely grunted and stood, crossing again to the fire and lifting the lid of the pot.  The aroma leaked out and my stomach grumbled with hunger.

From the bed, and sickly sweet voice called out.

“Darling,” my mother purred.  “Where have you been all day?”


Novel November 4

Soo so late.  I’ll give you a bit extra this time as an apology.  First, Second, and Third parts to catch up since it’s been so long.

She moaned, and curled in on herself.  Again, I shook her shoulder, and her eyes opened to look at me.  When she opened her mouth to spear, I recoiled.  Her breath smelled like death.

“Give me the milk then, and leave me to sleep.”  She hissed at me.

I handed her the bowl and she drank the whole thing.  Thrusting the bowl into my hands again, she rolled back over, and covered her head.

Sighing, I stand up.  Obviously she was going to be in bed all day, again.  I went back outside to get the bundle I had picked up in town.  I was lucky to have paid so little for the amount of meat I ended up with.

I had been taking a few coins from Smythe’s pockets when he was passed out in bed, not enough for him to notice, mind you, for quite awhile.  He never thought to bring food back, and I needed to be able to feed myself, the goat, the baby and Mother.  The pieces of chicken were wrapped in leather, and we frozen from being under snow.  I scooped some snow up to melt for water and carried in into the house, dumping it in a pot to hang over the fire.

Dried herbs from the garden hung from the rafters and I brought down a few plants; basil, oregano, and rosemary.  I crumbled them into the pot of snow and hung it over the fire.  For a moment, I watched the flames lick the bottom of the black pot.  From a small barrel, I fished out a few potatoes, soft and grubby, some onions, and the last of the carrots, which were pathetically soft.

Using a bent blade, I chopped the vegetables roughly, cutting as closely to the bad spots as possible to save food.  The pile of bad was far larger than the pile of good, and I was glad that spring would soon be coming.

I wasn’t as picky with the chicken meat, keeping the fat for flavor.

I could smell the herbs cooking in the water and when I look into the pot, the snow was melted and the aroma made my mouth water.  I brought the vegetables and chicken over to the pot and pushed them into the simmering water.  I stirred them all up the cook evenly and placed a lid over the pot.

Again I tried to feed my sister.  her skin was hot and dry to the touch.  When she opened her eyes to look at me, I noticed that they were glazed and unfocused.  As she began to cry, I could feel her body trembling.  The pathetic cries that came out were nothing like her normal, lusty wails.

She took the milk-sodden cloth, but when I lifted her to pat her back, most of the milk she drank came back up.  Her eyes were closing the moment I laid her down, and her breathing became soft with sleep.

As the stew began to bubble, the lid lifted slightly, filling the room with the scent of herb chicken.  I lifted the lid up to gaze inside and saw a pale liquid with bits of chicken bobbing up and down, with a thin layer of fatty oil covering the broth.  I dipped a long thin spoon (carved by myself earlier in the winter) in to stir the stew.  I scooped a bit out and blew to cool the liquid.

It burned my tongue but filled my mouth with a wonderful meaty, if a little undercooked, taste.

It would take a few more hours to finish cooking, but I had something to do while I waited.  Before I settled down with my sewing, I lifted a string of garlic down from the rafters.  I took two full bulbs from the string, and using the same knife, prepared the garlic and dumped it into the pot to further season the stew.  I stood watching the water boil, regretting the fact that I had used the last bit of salt a few days back.

From under the corner of the workbench bolted to the wall, I scooped some straw up and tossed it out the door to the goat.  After slipping some shoes on, I ventured out to relieve myself.  The air was chilled and it left me shivering.  The house was cozy though, and I was warmed almost immediately upon entering.

I picked up the pile of scraps left over from making my dress.  I had made sure to salvage enough of my old dress and the materials from the new one to make a new cloak.

The seams were almost invisible because I had spent so much time piecing the wool scraps together.  The cloak was full size at this point, I was just adding a large, deep hood to keep my head warm and dry in the wet, which was a necessity in such a soggy country.

The scraps, although different color and wear, fit nice together, providing a gradiation from light at the top to dark at the bottom that was pleasing to the eye.

Using a thin bone needle, I pushed dark grey thread through pieces of wool to attach them to the main body of my cloak.  My stitches were small and evenly, though closely, spaced.  They were both sturdy and attractively invisible.

The cottage was almost completely silent, except for the crackling of the fire and the pot hanging over it.

I could feel my eyelids getting extremely heavy, and I pushed the needle into the seam of the cloak so I didn’t lose it.  I leaned my head back and closed my eyes for a short, midday nap.

Novel November 3

Sorry this is a little bit late guys; it’s been a long week.  But anyways, here’s Novel November 3.  If you missed last week’s, you can find it here.  If you missed the one before that, you can read it here.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, maybe you should read this.

Soft snuffles woke me up, and from the weak grey light coming in under the poorly hung door, I could tell it would soon be morning.  I looked down into the face of my sister, and found her to be slowly waking up.  When he eyes finally opened fully, they were unfocused and glassy.  Her face screwed up to cry, but what came out was not the usual full-bodied wail, but a weak cry.  Her face turned red, and I picked her up from my cloak on the floor.  She quieted, and I unwrapped her to change her.  The air had a chill in it, and I quickly finished up the change and wrapped her back up.  The fire was just embers but the floor around the hearth still held warmth.  Before lying her back down, I wrapped my cloak around my shoulders, and pushed the bundle I used as a pillow closer to the hearth with my foot.  I placed her on the bundle and picked up the bowl for milk.

The air outside was freezing; my teeth ached from the chill of it.  I patted Mary Mae on the neck, and squatted down to milk her.

When the bowl was full of steaming milk, I brought it to my lips and took a few mouthfuls.  It took the edge off of my hunger and would sustain me until I could make some food.  After getting back into the house, I poured some of the creamy milk into another bowl for Mother.  When I was done feeding my sister, I would give some to Mother; hopefully before Smythe came back.

I stacked a few pieces of wood on top of the cooling embers, and I pushed some straw into the red of the embers.  After some work, I had a bit of straw burning, and added slivers of wood, which took a bit longer to light.  When I felt it was large enough to consume the larger pieces of wood, I left the fire to feed my sister.

She was fussy, and kept turning her head to go back to sleep.  I put her back in the cradle near the fire, and fetched the bowl of milk for Mother.  She was curled into a ball under the blankets, and I could felt her body heat when I sat next to her.  I reached out and shook her shoulder.

“Mama,” I used the name I called her as a child.  “Wake up, mama.  I have some milk for you.”

Novel November 2

Here is the second installment to Novel November.  If you missed the first part, you can read it here.

Mary Mae, the goat, was tied to the front of the house, chewing on an old scrap of leather.  I was also responsible for her well-being, because without the goat, my sister would have died long ago.  She survived on the rich milk, and was starting to fill out as well.  At first, I had had no idea how to get her to ingest the milk, but had finally discovered that a bit of cloth dipped in the liquid transferred the milk from the bowl to her mouth.

Even before opening the door, I could hear her hoarse cries.  I had come back just in time to feed her.  I picked up a bowl covered with cloth that I had buried in the snow to keep from Smythe, and found an icy layer.  Once inside, finding Smythe absent, Mother sleeping, and my sister red-faced from crying, I put the bowl down near the fire and put another chunk of wood atop the dying flames.

The small wooden cradle was near the fire to keep the infant warm, and when I picked her small body up, I noticed the chill.  Her bottom was damp, and she quieted when I held her against my body.  She whimpered a bit when I lay her down to change her diaper, but her dark eyes showed her trust of me.  After she was changed and wrapped back up, I settled down near the hearth, holding her in one arm, and the rag in the other hand.  The milk was now warm and unfrozen, and I dipped the rag from the bowl to her open mouth.  Her eyes wide, she sucked the rag until it was dry.  I repeated the same process until the bowl was empty, and her belly was round and bulging.  Her dark eyes drooped, and when she stopped resisting sleep, her lashes lay on her plump cheeks.

The room was dark, and I studied her by firelight.  Her skin was milky white, her hair dark and glossy.  Her tiny lips formed a dark pink rosebud and twitched with her dreams.  Her arms were up on her chest, and her tiny fingers curled at her neck.  Her little round knees were bent and pulled up, and her long toes were curled like her fingers.

The day had been long, and the warmth was seeping into my bones, causing a heavy lethargy to come over me.  I reached for the threadbare blanket that I used every night, and the small bundle I rested my head on.  I laid my sister on the bundle, watching a frown wrinkle her forehead for an instant.  I laid three more larger pieces of wood on the fire, and spread my cloak on the hard floor, as close as I dared to get to the hearth.

Picking the baby back up, I lay down on my cloak, covered myself with the blanket and placed my head on the bundle.  I used to share the large bed with Mother, but Smythe had taken my place.  I didn’t expect him to return tonight; he had probably already bedded down with one of the painted women from the tavern.

But the large bed no long tempted me.  It smelled strongly of Mother’s sickness and of Smythe’s dirty body.  I felt the baby squirm nearer to my chest, and pulled her close.  She sighed, a small, soft sound, and my eyes began to feel gritty with sleep.  I closed them to relieve the feeling, and not soon after, drifted to sleep.

Novel November 1

The poll has been closed, and I got enough votes to decide to pursue Novel November.  This is the first two handwritten pages of the story which is so far unnamed.  Hope you enjoy.  Look for Novel November 2 next Monday.

I stared in dismay at the bottom hem of my dress.  The awful mixture of mud, rotted food, and the product of domestic animals was sprayed from my knees down to my worn shoes.  The wool, which had been a gift from Mother, although mismatched, and more than one color of grey, had been lovingly washed, cut, and pieced together by myself.  It had taken days of work to fit the pieces together, and sew them into a dress to fit my slim frame.  In the dead of winter, I needed the warmth of wool, but also in the dead of winter, enough water to wash an entire dress was nearly impossible to get my hands on.  In the cold seasons, clean water was scarce, and needed for cooking, and drinking, not so much washing.  Small amounts of water were used to wash the diapers of my infant sister, but I could not justify cleaning my entire dress.  The stain, not to mention the smell, was there to stay.

I was on my way back from town when a careless man on horseback rushed past, spraying me with muck, and nearly knocking me over with shock.  I clutched the small sack closer to my chest, and hurried on trying to ignore my cold, damp dress.  Before long, I reached the small cottage I shared with my mother, infant sister, and the drunk my mother called her man.

Smythe, which was his family name; I never learned his first name, was a drunk.  He was forever backing me into corners, sliding his grubby hands along my skin, breathing his stale breath into my ear.  Since my sister had been born, Mother was not the same.  Bedridden most days, my mother depended heavily on me, her first-born daughter, to not only care for her, but for the household, my sister, and for Smythe.  The one time I confided in Mother about Smythe grabbing at me, she was angry at my reaction.

“Smythe has taken care of us for over a year!  If I’m not able to take care of him in the way that he needs, it’s up to you to do it.  Don’t think yourself so highborn that you can afford to be picky.  No man will want you; the child of a woman such as myself.”

From then on, I kept Smythe’s indiscretions to myself.  His daughter was, more often than not, my saving grace.  Her cries always came at times that allowed me to escape his advances.  She was a sickly little thing, because Mother had refused to feed her from her body, concerned it would make her look haggard, and  would no longer want her.  I always bit my tongue at this, because I knew Smythe was not picky about the appearance of his women.