Well, here it is at long last. Wow, this is only the rough draft of the first chapter and already it feels a bit weird to post it online; almost like I’m putting a piece of myself out for everyone to see. I know, I know, I’ve been doing it all year, but this is different…somehow…
I know you all know this, but…um, this is a rough draft. Obviously. I don’t even quite have 1000 words, though I tried. After I got to 993 I felt like adding any more would actually be subtracting from the first chapter, plus it seemed like a natural place to pause before chapter two. Also, this is a bit of a new style for me…I think it fits me better than the more epic style that I’ve been trying to struggle along with for about five years…anyway, please let me know what you think. I don’t really like criticism any more than the next girl, but I’m not afraid of honesty. Ok, well, maybe a little bit, but I appreciate it also. So tell me what you think of my first step towards my first novel. Honestly.
A soft autumn wind played tag with the vibrant leaves mounded on the sidewalks, carrying just enough chill to make Elinor button her jacket more securely. Thrusting her hands into her pockets, Elinor breathed deeply as if by doing so she could inhale some of the rosy-hued sky. After a long day in the dusty school-room, the colors and scents of fall seemed so fresh and wonderful. She stopped at the little white gate and closed her eyes to enjoy the sun’s last goodbyes on her face and the wind’s caress on her hair. She could almost forget.
Almost forget the war…almost forget that all-encompassing entity that had the power to tear people apart…almost forget that cold, stinging moment in time. It seemed so long ago. Had it really only been three days? Standing there in the red-tinted light it all seemed so far away…so distant from the song of the birds and the smell of wood smoke and the taste of salt on the wind. She could almost forget.
“Mummy, Mummy, Elinor’s home! Look what I found for you, Elinor…isn’t he a whopper?”
“Elinor, Elinor, come inside! I baked you a gingerbread man!”
Her reverie was cut short by two five-year-old voices which came tumbling out of the little cottage with their bright-eyed owners.
“Hello Jack, Polly!” smiled Elinor, trying to be enthusiastic as she accepted the present of a toad from one twin and a rather floury hug from the other. “Mmm, Polly, you have been baking with Mum, haven’t you? I hope it’s something good…well, that is a whopper, Jack! Where did you find him? Hello, Mum…” She gently disengaged herself from her siblings’ exuberant greetings to make her way up the walk to where a tall woman appeared smiling in the doorway, graceful and faded like a rose at summer’s end.
Elinor lingered in her embrace a moment to confide in her mother’s ear: “I’m all right, Mum…I’m just so afraid …”
“An hour has not gone by that I have not prayed for you, Elinor.” whispered Rosamund, pressing her daughter close. “Come in and lay off your things…supper is just on the table. Polly, get your sister a plate from the cupboard and take the rolls off the warmer…Jack Poole, take that dog out of the kitchen this minute…are you hungry, dear?”
“A little,” Elinor replied, pulling off her gloves and hat as she followed her mother into the warm little kitchen. “I am sorry I am so late…one of the Thatcher girls didn’t learn her grammar lesson and we had to work on it after school. Is Derek home yet?”
“Behind you, Elinor…” A tall boy of about seventeen came in with an armload of kindling and deposited it in the woodbox before turning to give his sister a hug and a bright smile. “How was it at the school, Elinor…oh, hot rolls! Jack, pass the butter.”
“About as usual,” Elinor began, her mouth full of the bobby pins she was removing from her dark hair. It took twenty-three pins to tame her mane into the soft French twist she preferred for teaching, and by evening it felt like every one stuck in her brain. “I had to stay after hours with Emma Thatcher; grammar, again.” Derek grimaced across the table at her and seemed about to speak, but a hush fell over the table when Rosamund sat down.
“Derek, will you?” the mother asked, nodding towards her eldest son. They bowed their heads as the youth led his family in prayer preparatory to the simple meal. It still seemed so strange to Elinor, even after seven years, to hear her younger brother’s buoyant, slightly hesitant voice. Strange not to hear her father’s rich, rolling, fervent tones; stranger still to find herself half-expecting Ethan’s voice, low and smooth and full of passion. Oh, God, keep him safe…keep my Ethan safe…according to Your will.
“Hear from Ethan today, Elinor?” asked Derek, helping himself to the carrots. Elinor could feel a flicker of her internal turmoil escape her tight grasp and cross her face as she shook her head slightly.
“No…I…we…can’t expect a letter yet. He left on Tuesday and this is only Friday evening…” She concealed her tears in her teacup and no one but her mother knew the still-raw emotion that rose in her heart.
Derek went on enthusiastically, not sensing how much pain each word inflicted on his sister. “Did he tell you that when the war is over, he’s going to help me get a commission in the Winchelsea police force? He said he’s got an uncle or somebody in London who’s a D. C. S. — that means Detective Chief Superintendent, Jack — and…”
“Stay strong in the Lord, Elinor. He will never let you go…and neither will I.”
“But it’s so hard…sometimes…I can’t hear Him, Ethan, and I’m so scared.”
He had taken her face in his hands and she had looked straight into those clear blue eyes that spoke more than his words. Somehow they reminded her of the leaping waves, bright with the reflected light of the sun and too deep to penetrate fully. “So am I, Elinor…But no matter what happens, I will see you again…no matter what happens…whether here or in His presence…” The bell had rung for the last time and still he had lingered. “God bless you, my…”
And the rest was lost in the wind.
“…but if the war is over by Christmas like everyone says, Ethan may have to wait on the commission until I’m old enough since they don’t take anyone under twenty-one,” finished Derek. “Pass the potatoes, Elinor.”
She handed them across the table silently, conscious only of one great, unspoken cry rising from her heart to her Master. A hand rested on her knee, a hand worn as smooth as its plain gold band by years of loving toil. Elinor looked up at her mother gratefully and whispered a broken thank you.
Honestly…it seems just a tad too romantic to me. I was trying to introduce the conflict and at the same time I think Elinor would naturally be more upset right after Ethan left than after a few months, so it won’t be this mushy in later chapters. But still.
*NOTE: I’ve just updated this, “just” meaning 10:16 p. m. on March 11th…a tiny bit less romance and a tiny bit more homeyness, but essentially it’s the same.